Hazel Kaplansky is smart, inquisitive, relentless and would consider herself unique, certainly not odd, weird or boring. Yet, having parents who run the graveyard situated behind your house doesn't really help with your image at school. Hazel has always been a lover of a good mystery, Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden being her sleuthing role models. Being observant is very important to her. Hazel carries a journal that she calls her "mysteries notebook" around where she catalogs all of her questions. Lately, Hazel has been taking to following the grave digger, Mr. Paul Jones. When she observes him locking a box in the shed, her initial hunch is that he must be a Russian spy. Hazel is growing up during the McCarthy time period, where Russian spies were thought to be lurking in her town, so Hazel begins to become very suspicious of Mr. Jones's actions. When a new boy named Samuel shows up in school, Hazel is so impressed with his intelligence that she believes he is just the person who can help her prove that Mr. Jones is a spy.
I recall reading about the Cold War era and McCarthy from school. I can't say that I've seen a Middle Grade book written about it until now. It was interesting to follow the details from Hazel's perspective taking in what she heard people saying around her, and from the newspaper articles she was reading. She was very adamant in her convictions, yet also jumped to a lot of conclusions. Her stockpiling of canned goods in the mausoleum as a make shift bomb shelter was quite amusing. Most of all, I really enjoyed the relationship that she forms with Samuel. He was the logical, reasonable one who had a process to his thinking. He made Hazel question the assumptions that she made and really search to gather more facts. They were an endearing team. I also enjoyed how Hazel was able to help Samuel resolve some of the issues surrounding his father, it was touching to see how much his friendship really meant to her.