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DEATH BY BIKINI


By Linda Gerber

Puffin, 2008 ($7.99)
ISBN-10: 0142411175
ISBN-13: 978-0-14-241117-9

Ages: 12 and up; Grades: 7 and up

Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel

Aphra Benn Connolly was not thrilled when her dad uprooted her from a comfortable life in South Carolina to an isolated tropical island, far from her friends, her school, the malls... She was stunned when she learned that her mother would not be going with them. Four years later, sheís made her peace with her father, helping him run a resort, enjoying the beauty of the island, exploring its every nook, cranny, crevasse and cave. Her motherís apparent rejection, however, still hurts. Her father, a good parent in every other way, refuses to talk to her about why Mom left them.

One Friday evening, things change for the worst. The really, really worst. It all starts with the arrival of a pleasant, elegant Japanese botanist. Her arrival in off-season is a little odd, but sometimes people donít mind being there in the July heat. Then the resident rock star, code-named "Mick," throws yet another drunken fit and his lady of the moment, "Bianca," packs up and says she wants to leave. A storm is coming, so thatís not going to happen. While Mr. Connolly is trying to sooth the savage breast, a man walks in and asks for accommodations for himself, his wife and teenage son. Connolly seems reluctant, but the man says something that makes him blanch, and he agrees to take them in.

Several things bother Aphra. For one, the only way she knew of to come to the island was by the hotelís helicopter, yet the family had not come in that way. And why did her father put the family in a villa that was undergoing renovation, and why did he not record their stay? She is intrigued by the son, Adam, but both his and her parents forbid them to have any contact with each other. Not that it kept them apart...

When a body is found on the beach, an apparent drowning victim, a suspicious man appears out of nowhere, with an ominous agenda, and her dad becomes ill, Aphra gets seriously freaked out. She doesnít know who to trust. Soon she is on a desperate mission to save her father and the others from an unknown killer, using all her skills and wits to try to save the day.

Donít let the bikini of the title fool you, this is no light beach read. Aphra faces major danger, and handles it well. Sheís a great character, strong and resourceful, but damaged by the defection of her mother. She knows her father is keeping big secrets from her, and that hurts too. By storyís end, however, he trusts her enough to tell her whatís really going on. In the next book of the series, DEATH BY LATTE, I would imagine she will play a larger role in her fatherís true business. The author says that we will also be seeing "Adam Smith" again, for which I know Aphra is grateful.

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