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Sammy Keyes and the Cold Hard Cash

Review

Sammy Keyes and the Cold Hard Cash

In yet another truly engrossing and enjoyable mystery in Wendelin Van Draanen’s series (is it my imagination or are these always excellent books just getting better and better?), Sammy Keyes not only scares a man to death but ends up in a tremendous moral quandary. It all begins when Sammy must sneak into the apartment she illegally shares with her grandmother in the Senior Highrise.

As usual, she climbs up the fire escape. Since it's nighttime and she's not worried that someone will see her, she's zoning out as she makes her way up. At the fourth floor landing, the door begins to open, so she hides behind it. An elderly man steps onto the landing; he spots Sammy and is obviously terrified. Suddenly, he chokes and falls onto the fire escape. She realizes he's having a heart attack and tells him she's going to call an ambulance. But the man gestures to his pockets and begs her to "Get rid of it."

Sammy is shocked to discover huge bundles of money in the stranger's pockets. When she asks repeatedly if he means for her to get rid of all his money, he begs her to throw it, so she tosses the bundles into the bushes below the fire escape. Imagine how she feels when the man, whose name is Buck Ritter, actually dies. She has scared a man literally into his grave! And then she remembers about the money.

Amazingly, the bundles of cash are still there in the bushes, just waiting for Sammy to scoop them up, which she does. While she wonders if she's doing the right thing, she keeps remembering how Ritter begged her to get rid of the money. Isn't she just fulfilling a dying man's last wish by hiding it in her backpack? When her friend Marissa's family runs into financial problems, Sammy (for once) can help her out. She can also sneakily ease Grams's money burdens. And how about a nice gift for her lovely friend Hudson? Unfortunately, Sammy's spending must be done covertly since the money really isn't hers to spend. Or is it? After all, Ritter did tell her to get rid of the cash, which is exactly what she's doing.

Of course, the whole time Sammy is sneaking around with her newfound riches, she not only has that moral quandary niggling away at her but she also wonders why a man who seems as poor as Ritter even had that much money to begin with. Naturally she can't resist trying to find out what the real story is. And soon very strange things are happening, all related to her secret stash. Meanwhile, Sammy has other things to think about. There's Marissa's huge crush on Danny, who appears to be unworthy; the big swimming party coming up; and the whole "Are Casey and I ever going to actually kiss?" question.

This is a terrific mystery revolving around a much-appreciated strong young female investigator. The story is realistic, the characters are fully realized and the plot is paced perfectly --- rapid enough to keep readers' interest engaged while allowing thoughtful introspection on Sammy's part. There is also one of the most original fight scenes, with the wildest weapons ever. What seems to be an anti-fat bias strikes the only discordant note in an otherwise thoroughly enjoyable read. While Sammy's attitude toward her obese neighbor and toward a friend's overweight younger brother may well strike some as mean-spirited, others may believe it's just an honest portrayal of her feelings. At the most, it's merely one flaw in yet another truly stellar Sammy Keyes story.

Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on May 11, 2010

Sammy Keyes and the Cold Hard Cash
(Sammy Keyes #12)
by Wendelin Van Draanen

  • Publication Date: May 11, 2010
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Yearling
  • ISBN-10: 0440421136
  • ISBN-13: 9780440421139