Tuesday, March 06, 2001

Sammy Keyes unfazed by seedy L.A.

By Sara Pearce
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        This has to be the final straw for Sammy Keyes.

  Sammy Keyes and the Hollywood Mummy
  By Wendelin Van Draanen
  Knopf; $15.95; ages 10-13
        It's bad enough she has never known her father and that her mother, Lana, has abandoned her in order to pursue a Hollywood acting career. But now Lana is creating a whole new identity, one that makes her mother her grandmother and doesn't include a child. After all, how could Lana have a 13-year-old if she's, er, 25?

        As Sammy sees it, the only thing she can do is sneak out of her grandmother's and head straight to Hollywood to set her mother (who she refers to caustically as “Lady Lana”) straight.

        With her soft-spoken sidekick Marissa in tow, Sammy boards the “Big Dog” (ie. a Greyhound bus) from her small California town for Los Angeles — and so begins the sixth book in this award-winning children's mystery series.

        It's a humdinger.

        There are myriad mysteries and side plots, but the hard-boiled Sammy is up to everything thrown at her. Think of her as a Raymond Chandler character in a child's body. Not much fazes her, not even being stranded among pimps, streetwalkers and drug dealers on Sunset Strip.

        She finds her mother, living in a snazzy Beverly Hills villa with other aspiring actresses under the strict tutelage of an elderly brother and sister, who have made (and broken) many a star.

        And it looks as though Lana is about to hit it big. Until one of her roommates is murdered. Who did it? Was Lana the intended victim? Or the murderer?

        Sammy and Marissa solve the crime, but not before a trip to a seedy pawn shop, run-ins with Lana's bosses, breaking and entering, discovering a contemporary mummy and, literally, crashing into a swanky restaurant.

        The plot twists and turns in surprising ways in this nail-biter, which is narrated by Sammy in her own in-your-face style.

        Wendelin Van Draanen will sign Sammy Keyes and the Hollywood Mummy 10 a.m. Monday, Books & Co., 350 E. Stroop Road, Kettering (937) 298-6540.


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