- Midnight in the Piazza by Tiffany Parks
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-06-264452-7 $16.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-06-264454-1 $7.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 5-7
With her history professor father, thirteen-year-old Beatrice moves to Rome, settling in a neighborhood with an intriguing legend centering on a once wealthy family, cursed by an unhappy bride whose cruel husband won her by tricking her father in a fixed wager. Generations later, the Mattei family has now lost nearly all their wealth, the notable exception being four bronze Bernini turtles atop a fountain in the piazza. Beatrice awakens late one night to witness their theft; their restoration by the next morning ensures that no one will believe her. Convinced of what she saw nonetheless, she decides to solve the mystery. Beatrice proves an excellent detective, aided along the way either by luck or a mysterious force her elderly neighbor calls serendipity; either way, her tenacity is rewarded. Parks uses real Roman landmarks, artifacts, and history, or at least accepted legend, as her setting for this compelling girl-power mystery. Beatrice’s distress at her displacement is short-lived as she sifts clues and tries to decide whether to trust her new friend and translator, Marco. Ultimately, it takes the ingenuity of both teens, but mostly Beatrice, to thwart the theft and, incidentally, save her father’s job. Armchair travel detectives and fans of Balliett’s Chasing Vermeer (BCCB 7/04) and its sequels will delight in this.