Consider the circumstances: you are an eleven-year-old boy, with younger and older siblings. You live in a hotel, where your father is the manager. One day, the hotel maid runs downstairs into the office to announce she has just found the dead body of a guest in one of the rooms. You and your father go upstairs to the room and find - nothing. The body and the guest have disappeared.
And that's just the beginning. It happens again...and the owner of the hotel threatens to fire your Dad if the disappearing bodies damage the hotel's business...
Welcome to "The Bodies in the Bessledorf Hotel," a 1986 novel by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor and our entry for April in the Children's Mystery Challenge. On the second Tuesday of each month, now through June, we're looking at some mysteries which can introduce younger readers to the kind of mysteries we adults enjoy so much. In the case of this blog, obviously, that would include the kind of mysteries we think of as classic mysteries, where readers are given clues which they can piece together (along with the central characters in the story) to find the one true solution to the mystery.
That's what happens in this book - which, by the way, has been republished now with the title "Bernie Magruder and the Disappearing Bodies." Bernie Magruder is the eleven-year-old hero of the book, and most of the action is seen through his eyes. With the help of his siblings and a couple of his good friends, it's up to Bernie to figure out what's really going on at the Bessledorf Hotel - and to unmask (and capture) the villain of the piece...even if he WOULD rather be concentrating on getting his skateboarding exploits into the Guinness Book of World Records.
It's a legitimate, well-plotted mystery, nicely executed, with valid and clever clues along the way. It's a good enough mystery that it was nominated for a 1987 Edgar Award in the Juvenile category. It's intended for readers in the 9-12 age group, although I think it certainly can be enjoyed by older readers as well. I think it's a great introduction to this kind of mystery story.