It's the summer of 1959 in small town USA. Children are playing in the playground till dark and life is good. Kagen's narration was a bit irksome until I realized she tells the story as Sally O'Malley the approximately ten year old heroine.
Sally O'Malley, her younger sister Troo (short for Trooper) and her older half-sister Nell have moved to town with their mother from the farm following the death of Mr. O'Malley. They have moved to town for 2 reasons: their maternal grandmother lives in town and there was too much work on the farm without their father. Sally often quotes pearls of wisdom from her grandmother, such as "actions speak louder than words." The O'Malley sisters are quickly absorbed into the neighborhood, making friends and loving the fact that they don't have to walk miles to find playmates.
Things begin to change when one of their friends is found murdered. Everyone begins to speculate on who did the deed. Sally, with her vivid imagination, is sure she knows who the killer is and sticks to her belief. Children are in before dark and warned to be on guard.
The O'Malley girls experience a life change when their mother remarries, then becomes ill and is hospitalized. This leaves Nell in charge; unfortunately, she is too occupied with being a teenager and her boyfriend. Sally and Troo learn to fend for themselves and show up at friends' homes just in time for dinner and sleepovers. Sally finds many things in her life aren't as they seem and is helped by the deep connection she had to Mr. O'Malley.
A second girl from the neighborhood is announced missing. Sally uses her imagination and stays one foot ahead of the criminal element, gathering clues and vowing not to let her or Troo become the next victim.
The author's depiction is true to life life and I was taken back to my childhood in Port Deposit, which included visiting Calary's General Store to turn in my collected soda bottles to buy penny candy and gathering with friends after supper for games of tag, hop scotch, and hide and seek. I really enjoyed listening to this CD book with the slight mystery edge the novel contained. Come to the library, check out the CD book and listen to hear how the O'Malley sisters really aren't the O'Malleys and how the mighty gorilla Samson assists Sally in her time of desperate need.
Recommended by Linda Krauss