cover image Party: A Mystery

Party: A Mystery

Jamaica Kincaid, illus. by Ricardo Cortés. Black Sheep, $17.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-61775-716-7

This send-up of the Nancy Drew mysteries by Kincaid (See Now Then, for adults) first appeared as a 1980 New Yorker story about a gala celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first book’s publication. Here, Kincaid’s piece is recast as a picture book with dramatic artwork by Cortés (Sea Creatures from the Sky). Three girls of color—Pam, Bess, and Sue—watch the party from the sidelines, and they mount a set of marble stairs to survey the action from above. Bess obsesses about refreshments when suddenly, Pam spies something shocking: “Look!... How vile!... How bilious!” Bess witnesses it, too, but smaller Sue can’t see what they’re talking about (“You never tell me anything”). Before the two older girls can act, though, whatever disturbed them disappears, and the story ends. Detailed, almost photographically realistic portraits of girls and partygoers by Cortés, shown against marble architectural backdrops that suggest the New York Public Library, engage throughout. As an adult parody of hackneyed Stratemeyer Syndicate prose, it’s a gem. But the enigmatic ending that worked as a spoof may baffle readers, rendering the picture book’s success a bit of a mystery. Ages 3–7. [em]Author’s agent: Jeffrey Posternak, Wylie Agency. Illustrator’s agent: Stephen Barbara, InkWell Management. (June) [/em]