A Coretta Scott King Author Honor and Boston Globe / Horn Book Honor winner!
"Powerful.... Johnson writes about the long shadows of the past with such ambition that any reader with a taste for mystery will appreciate the puzzle Candice and Brandon must solve." -- The New York Times Book Review
When Candice finds a letter in an old attic in Lambert, South Carolina, she isn't sure she should read it. It's addressed to her grandmother, who left the town in shame. But the letter describes a young woman. An injustice that happened decades ago. A mystery enfolding its writer. And the fortune that awaits the person who solves the puzzle.
So with the help of Brandon, the quiet boy across the street, she begins to decipher the clues. The challenge will lead them deep into Lambert's history, full of ugly deeds, forgotten heroes, and one great love; and deeper into their own families, with their own unspoken secrets. Can they find the fortune and fulfill the letter's promise before the answers slip into the past yet again?
After her parents divorce, 12-year-old Candice Miller begrudgingly moves with her mother from Atlanta to the small town of Lambert, S.C., for the summer. In the attic of Candice's late grandmother's house she finds a letter addressed to her grandmother, which promises treasure to the city if the letter's puzzle can be solved. Candice then learns that her grandmother's efforts to do so years earlier cost her both her reputation and her job as the first African-American city manager in Lambert. Candice digs into the mystery along with Brandon, an 11-year-old neighbor who is being bullied. The two bookworms have just a few months to find the fortune and repair Candice's grandmother's legacy, and they come to discover how racism has poisoned the town over the years. It's a gripping mystery, and the plot shifts smoothly between Candice's present-day story and flashback sections that reveal Lambert's history of injustice. Johnson (To Catch a Cheat) addresses important issues gracefully, particularly having the freedom to live a life of one's choosing and the long-lasting effects of discrimination. Ages 8 12.