By Kim Harrington
Scholastic, $5.99, 177 pages

It was only supposed to be a simple school project: invent a business—nothing too complicated. Darcy and Norah, best friends and polar opposites, create a detective agency for their assignment, complete with a website. Yet they receive an anonymous email through their site about a real missing person’s case. Norah is hesitant, Darcy is gung-ho, and soon they are both barreling forward, trying to solve a mystery that is much larger, and more dangerous than they could have imagined.

She looked up from the computer and met my eyes. “The website we created for our fake detective agency just got an e-mail about a real case.”

Sleuth or Dare: Partners in Crime by Kim Harrington is the first book in a new mystery series for kids aged 8 to 12. While an appealing concept with masterfully-created suspense, the story features mostly stereotypical characters and low-quality language. The book is replete with slang and uncouth words, and a running theme is male distractions. The mystery itself is rather unbelievable, though children would probably find it exciting even if it is contrived. Harrington leaves something unresolved in this first book so getting the next one will be a must. Despite its drawbacks, Sleuth or Dare is difficult to put down once started.

Reviewed by Andrea Klein