Friday Barnes, Girl Detective by R.A. Spratt is a kid-friendly mystery, illustrated by Phil Gosier, following Friday Barnes as she investigates a slew of crime at the Highcrest Academy (Available January 19, 2016).
Imagine if Sherlock Holmes was an eleven-year-old girl!
When Friday Barnes, girl genius, solves a bank robbery, she uses the reward money to send herself to Highcrest Academy, the most exclusive boarding school in the country―and discovers it's a hotbed of crime!
Soon she's investigating everything from disappearing homework to the terrifying Yeti haunting the school swamp. But the biggest mystery yet is Ian Wainscott, the handsomest (and most arrogant) boy in school who inexplicably hates her. Will the homework be found? Can they ever track down the Yeti? And why is Ian out to ruin her?
Friday Barnes was not an unhappy child. That said, she wasn’t deliriously over the moon either. She was just left to get on with things. You see, Friday Barnes was the youngest of five children. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Five children! Her mother must have been so busy. What a workload! What a chaotic house they must have had!” Well, that’s not how it was at all.
Friday’s mother was a very systematic woman. You don’t get a PhD in theoretical physics if you’re not good at being methodical. And that is how Mrs. Barnes approached child rearing. She decided she wanted children, so she allocated four and a half years out of her career to have them. She spaced them exactly eighteen months apart, and when the oldest started school and the younger two were in day care, she went back to work.
Now, I’m sure if you’re good at math, you will have noticed that if you have children eighteen months apart over a four-and-a-half-year period, that gives you four children in total. Mr. and Mrs. Barnes had their four children, and everything went according to plan. They taught them to read with flash cards, they sent them to the best after-school math courses, and they even allowed them to participate in sports. If you call yoga a sport.
Then, nine years later, just as their youngest child was gaining early admission to high school, the unexpected happened: Mrs. Barnes got pregnant again. There was no time in her schedule for childbirth. On the due date, she was committed to speak at a conference in Bern, Switzerland, about the possibility of the International Super Collider opening a black hole and destroying the planet. For the first time in her adult life, Mrs. Barnes saw her ironclad grasp on order and reason begin to slip.
Mr. Barnes was, however, a man of action. That is, if the action did not require him to leave his office or get up from his desk. He Googled “Bern” and “maternity hospitals.” They discovered that there was one just two miles from the conference center. Mr. and Mrs. Barnes both breathed a sigh of relief. From that moment on, life proceeded exactly as if Friday did not exist.
Late in her third trimester Mrs. Barnes traveled to Switzerland and gave her lecture. Halfway through she started to feel labor pains, but she was able to hold on till the end of her PowerPoint presentation. And only the people in the front row noticed when her water broke.
And so after a short taxi ride to the hospital and just seventeen hours in labor Friday was born. And she was named Friday because her parents thought that was the day of the week. (Being academics, they often became confused about such trivial matters as times and dates.) It was actually a Thursday.
Eleven years later, Friday Barnes had largely raised herself. She was fairly small and dull-looking, with light brown hair and muddy brown eyes, and she had mastered the trick of finding the exact spot in a room with the least light, so that if she stood perfectly still nobody would notice she was there.
Even though she was only eleven, Friday was nearly ready to enter seventh grade because when she was five she had walked out on her first lesson in kindergarten (she didn’t care for finger painting) and put herself straight into first grade. And this being Friday, none of the teachers noticed.
Friday found it was best to go unnoticed as much as possible. Being noticed just caused trouble. If her mother noticed Friday was eating an entire one-pound block of chocolate, she would take it away and tell her to eat an apple. If she didn’t notice, Friday could eat as much as she liked.
Now, this may sound wonderful to many of you: to have uninterested parents who never interfere with anything you do. But the problem is that when you devote your entire time to going unnoticed by your parents, that talent seeps over into every other aspect of your life. Friday went unnoticed at school, on the bus, and at shops as well.
And if no one notices you, then no one talks to you, and if you spend your entire childhood in silence, you will not develop very good social skills. It is hard to make friends when your idea of a conversation starter is “How many moles of acid do you use to make your hair turn that shade of yellow?”
So at school, while all the other kids were playing, giggling, and gossiping, Friday would just read—a lot.
She had become so bored the summer she turned eight that she began reading every single book her parents had in the house. They had quite a few books (several thousand to be exact), many of which were on painfully dull subjects involving the minutiae of chemistry and physics. But Friday read quickly, so it only took her a year and a half to get through them all. As a result, Friday’s schoolteachers rarely had any information to share with her that she did not already know, so they left her alone to sit at her desk at the back of the room reading detective novels.
Friday enjoyed these, because being a detective seemed to give a person license to behave very eccentrically indeed. Yet people were always so glad to see you. They were especially glad to see you when their mother-in-law had just been murdered and they were desperate to prove that, despite holding the bloodstained murder weapon, they were entirely innocent. But the best thing about detective novels was that if she concentrated really hard on solving the mystery, Friday was, for a little while, able to forget how lonely she was.
There was one adult Friday was particularly fond of: her uncle Bernie. He was an ex-cop who worked as an investigator for an insurance company. He babysat Friday every Thursday night. This was her favorite night of the week because as soon as her parents pulled out of the driveway, Uncle Bernie would throw out the macrobiotic lasagna her mother had left for their dinner, order two pizzas, and let Friday watch TV. Actual commercial TV, not just documentaries on PBS.
On this particular Thursday night, Uncle Bernie was clearly distracted.
“Are you all right?” asked Friday. “You’ve been sighing very loudly, which leads me to deduce that either you have an upper respiratory tract infection that is inhibiting your body’s ability to absorb oxygen or something is troubling you.”
“There is something,” replied Uncle Bernie. “I’m under a lot of pressure at work from the CEO.”
“He actually spoke to you?” asked Friday. “I thought he was always playing golf.”
“He called from the ninth hole,” said Uncle Bernie. “He was waiting for security to come and remove some lady golfers so he could play through, and he gave me a call.”
“So what’s his problem? Is it about your diabolical dress sense?” asked Friday with concern. “Have members of the public been making complaints?”
“What?” said Uncle Bernie.
“For a start, there is the fedora you insist on wearing,” said Friday.
“It’s traditional for great detectives to wear silly hats,” said Uncle Bernie defensively.
“I suppose I can see how it would make a suspect underestimate you,” said Friday.
“The problem is with a case,” said Uncle Bernie. “I’m working on a bank robbery. A diamond worth five million dollars was stolen from a safe deposit box at the central branch of First National Bank.”
“One diamond worth five million dollars?!” exclaimed Friday. “That’s outrageous! Don’t they know diamonds are just compressed carbon, and carbon is everywhere? In pencils, in wood, in every cell of our bodies?”
“Yes, but cells and pencils don’t make sparkly jewelry,” said Uncle Bernie. “I’ve got to catch who did it and get the diamond back, or our insurance company is out of pocket six million dollars.”
“I thought you said it was worth five million dollars,” said Friday.
“It is, but the policy has an additional one million for pain and suffering,” explained Uncle Bernie. “The company really wants that diamond back. They’re even offering a fifty-thousand-dollar reward to anyone who provides information that leads to its return.”
“Fifty thousand dollars!” Friday exclaimed. Then, in the only athletic action she had taken in the last five years since she had run away from the doctor trying to give her a tetanus shot, she leaped over the couch. “Why didn’t you say so? Let me see that paperwork.”
A Brilliant Deduction
Friday was onto her third lollipop and she still hadn’t solved it. She had pored over the paperwork, surveillance videos, and affidavits from all the bank staff. The problem was that there was nothing to see. Everything in the bank vault proceeded according to protocol.
Friday watched the footage over and over again, focusing on all the details: the nervous way the bank manager kept touching his tie as he accompanied the appraiser down to the vault; the way the appraiser methodically cleaned first one lens of his glasses and then the other before handling the stone; the number of times the security guard sneezed per minute, and the way Mr. Friedricks strode into the bank in his built-up cowboy boots, and towered over the average-height security guard as he presented his card with a little flourish of the fingertips. Finally, there was the pandemonium as Mr. Friedricks discovered the diamond was missing and raised the alarm.
A siren went off. Staff ran down from the offices above, and in the chaos Mr. Friedricks must have stubbed his toe because he hobbled as he was ushered upstairs. Friday watched it all time and time again, trying to unravel the story of what really happened.
Suddenly Uncle Bernie, who had fallen asleep in front of the TV, woke up with a start.
“What time is it?” he asked.
“Quarter to twelve,” said Friday.
“What?!” exclaimed Uncle Bernie as he leaped up from the couch. “We’ve got to hide the pizza boxes, de-tune the commercial channels, and put you in bed. Your parents could be here any second.”
“It’s all right. They won’t be here for another fifteen minutes,” said Friday, not looking up from the paperwork. “They are never early or late. They make complex calculations on traffic speed based on all the latest available data before they go anywhere in a car.”
“Well, you should be in bed,” said Uncle Bernie. “It’s a school night.”
“The most effective use of my time would be to sleep in school,” said Friday. “Although I doubt I will be going to school tomorrow.”
“Why?” asked Uncle Bernie.
“Because you are going to take me down to the bank so I can prove who committed this crime, discover where the diamond is hidden, and claim the fifty-thousand-dollar reward,” announced Friday.
Copyright © 2016 R.A. Spratt.
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R.A. Spratt is an award winning author best known for writing the 'Friday Barnes, Girl Detective' and 'Nanny Piggins' series of books. She lives in Bowral, Australia with her husband and two daughters. R.A is currently writing the fifth installment in the 'Friday Barnes' series.