Dutton Children's Books/Penguib Group: NY, 2005.
Introducing Gilda Joyce - an ambitious 8th grader, ready to start her career as a psychic detective and novelist. School's out for the summer. Her best friend Wendy is going to music camp, and Gilda's plans for the summer are foiled before they start. Angling for a spectacular summer adventure, Gilda invites herself to her uncle's (an uncle she hadn't known she had) Victorian home in San Francisco, complete with locked tower and hauntings.
She has her work cut out for her: communicating with relatives not in the habit of fraternizing with anyone, extracting information regarding the mysterious events including the past death of her uncle's sister. Meanwhile, Gilda also uses this opportunity to try to contact her deceased father, reasoning that a haunted house is the perfect place to connect with spirits in the hope that one will be her father. It is her desire to reach her dad that drives her to study and practice psychic phenomenon.
Her cousin Juliet is suffering from her own losses. When her aunt Melanie died, her father withdrew from her. Not only did she lose her beloved aunt, but her parents split up, and her father allows no discussion of her aunt. Gilda's influence may help to heal the rift between them. But there are many obstacles to their efforts to work together in solving the mystery of Melanie's ghostly visits. One factor is Juliet's rejection of friendship offered; another is Gilda's clueless pushiness.
Gilda is an interesting character, and the story is a twist on the standard mystery. Like Nancy Drew, Gilda is the passionate, overeager detective, though less perfect and much wackier. She is smart, and even approaches psychic practices in a methodical manner. Her goal is to establish her career, and she very much wants to be taken seriously.
I read the later books first. Gilda's character will be more developed and mature in the other books. All of the stories that I've read in the series are imaginative and entertaining, with The Dead Drop being my favorite so far.
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