Unlike the Left Behind: The Kids volumes, the Mandie series is easy to jump into at any point. The 34th installment, set in 1903, finds the mystery-loving heroine leaving the Misses Heathwoods' School for Girls for spring vacation; little bits of the back story conveniently spliced into the beginning will quickly bring new readers up to speed. At the grand North Carolina mansion of her uncle/ adopted father, Mandie notices strange lights at a supposedly abandoned house. Fans of the series and with in-print figures at about 7 million, they are many shouldn't be too surprised when the mystery hinges on a runaway girl, a mistreated orphan, as Leppard's plots tend to favor theatrical elements. Religious messages are mostly subtextual, but what might deter readers (or presiding adults) is the language. The servants favor a Gone With the Wind dialect, as in ""Aunt"" Lou's ""Lawsy mercy, this chile got to eat something right away, Doctuh.... We's gwine fix dat right now."" Ages 8-12. (Sept.) FYI: A prequel series, Young Mandie, is published by Bantam/Skylark.