cover image The Swifts: A Dictionary of Scoundrels

The Swifts: A Dictionary of Scoundrels

Beth Lincoln, illus. by Claire Powell. Dutton, $17.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-593-53323-9

A gothic novel of corrosive values that’s centered around a family reunion, Lincoln’s manor-set murder mystery maintains a Knives Out feel by way of Lemony Snicket. As the story opens, scores of relatives are poised to descend upon Swift House for the event, which is also a family-wide hunt for the treasure hoard that Grand-Uncle Vile once secreted on the estate. Named fatefully from the Family Dictionary, dauntless 13-year-old Shenanigan longs to find the treasure, and keeps a list of the idiosyncratic home’s possible hiding places, including suspicious paintings. She dreads the family gathering, but when an attempt is made on Arch-Aunt Schadenfreude’s life, Shenanigan, frustrated with her adult relations’ inadequate sleuthing, enlists the help of sister Phenomena and nonbinary cousin Erf. The initially whimsical story takes a darker tone as murders ensue and the family begins to close ranks, but crackling puns outpace the body count as this archly told, never muddled debut whodunit reveals a roster of distinct characters, a labyrinthine setting and plot, and a mystery that is as clever and impish as its heroine. The family’s members have varying skin tones. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8–12. Agent: Zoë Plant, Bent Agency. (Feb.)