The Graveyard Riddle by Lisa Thompson

The Graveyard Riddle by Lisa Thompson. Scholastic, 2021. 9781338679038

Format: ARC (8/21 pub date)

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Genre:  Mystery

What did you like about the book? Melody lives with her Mom on Chestnut Close, where she has spent most of her life. When her Mom reveals that the house must be sold in order to make ends meet, Melody is devastated, and takes refuge in a place that gives her comfort: the nearby cemetery. There, with her dog, Frankie, she discovers a tumbling down house at the back with an inscription over the door “Lord Have Mercy Upon Us.” She learns that centuries ago this house was a plague house, where plague victims were sent until they died. The intrigue of the place ramps up soon after, when she also finds a boy is living there, Hal, who claims to be a spy on a secret mission to find the thief of a valuable necklace that was stolen over 100 years ago. As the rift with her Mom grows, Melody spends more and more time helping Hal with food and clothing, and with the mystery of the stolen necklace. She eventually confides in her best friend Matthew, (from Thompson’s previous novel The Goldfish Boy), but he seems to be caught up in a new friendship with the annoying Jake, another neighbor. In the background, readers learn of Melody’s grief at her father leaving the family, and one wonders if her need to believe Hal’s increasingly outlandish claims mirrors her need for someone to trust.

I love how the author melds the mystery with issues of mental illness (Matthew has OCD), bullying (in this case, a teacher is bullying Jake), divorce and friendship. The writing is full of Melody’s personality and the observations of a 12 year old, with the blind spots and honesty of that age. These elements add depth and pathos to the story. It’s refreshing to read about characters who have mental health challenges that do not define them. I consider this a companion novel to The Goldfish Boy, and it is easily enjoyed on its own.

Anything you didn’t like about it? It’s not exactly a negative, but there are a fair number of Britishisms, such as “lounge” for living room and “bin” for trash can, that some readers may puzzle over.

To whom would you recommend this book?  For mystery lovers, ages 8-14, and anyone seeking interesting realistic fiction which features characters with mental illness.

Who should buy this book? Elementary and middle schools and public libraries

Where would you shelve it ? Fiction

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes, especially if you enjoyed The Goldfish Boy.

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA

Date of review: June 10, 2021

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