Surf’s undead, Bookwyrms! Gather ’round the creepy campfire! Today, we’re going to sink into two Feel Good tales of intangible tomfoolery. We have another paranormal adventure from Camp Lumberjanes and some sinister surf hijinks on the California coast!
Rating: 5 out of 5 old-timey food swears. Or: 5 out of 5 totally tubular ear piercings.
- My “Hardcore Lady Types” playlist on Spotify
- “Good Girls,” by Elle King (from the 2016 Ghostbusters soundtrack)
- “Surfer Ghost,” by Superbrat
- “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” – the Andy Williams version
- “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” – the Celtic Thunder version.
Like The Carnival Ghost, this one takes us to the Southern California coast in midwinter — a perfect time, according to that famous Christmas song, for ghost stories. And, like The Curse of the Golden Heart, it also involves a nautical spirit who catches the attention of an amateur teen detective. Only, this time, the mystery is much more Scooby-Doo than Pirates of the Caribbean.
Dawn Schafer, former Alternate Officer of the Baby-Sitters Club, has moved back to Palo City, California to live with her dad and younger brother. She’s living her Best Coast life, taking winter surf lessons with her best friend Sunny, engaging in lots of beachside babysitting fun, and not-quite-flirting with local surf god Thrash.
Now, Dawn claims she has no serious interest in Thrash — he’s “[t]oo wild, too old, and too — well, just too-too” (my emphasis; insert totally innocent wolf whistle) — but she also says she could spend all day listening to him talk about surfing, and she totally blushes when he nick-names her after a legendary Hawaiian princess.
Anyhoo, things get super gnarly when Thrash’s mangled surf board washes up on the beach one day, the expert surfer nowhere in sight. The authorities assume Thrash was eaten by sharks or something and leave it at that. Everyone is horrified for about a minute, but Dawn can’t bring herself to shrug this off as an ordinary surfing accident. Thrash is too
dreamy hunky godly awesome! He wouldn’t wipe out in such a barney way!
But the plot really gets amped when Dawn and Sunny are supervising a nighttime beach party for the kids. As the youngest kids begin to nod off, someone sees what looks like a human silhouette riding the misty waves in the distance. But what living surfer would risk going out in such aggro conditions?
So! Since Dawn was once a member of a technically-teen babysitting/detective agency, with specific expertise in ghost stories, she immediately takes it upon herself to solve the case herself, since the local LEOs are totally uninterested in busting ghosts or avenging some “bum.” What a bunch of sketchy hodads!
Anyhoo, this is definitely a cozy mystery/beach read with a hilariously satisfying resolution. If you want to know the full story, with spoilers, I HIGHLY recommend listening to the BSCC podcast episode (it’s #163: “W ❤ KCMC: Dawn and the Surfer Ghost”). Be aware, the hosts tend to use lots of salty language and tell lots of R-rated jokes.
P.S. All teasing aside, Dawn really does just see Thrash as a friend. Honest.
P.S.2. This book also has a sub-plot involving twins!
Next up is a spooky campfire mystery starring our favorite summer camp sweethearts, Mal and Molly!
Things have been pretty peachy for Roanoke Cabin until Molly gets a very passive-aggressive package from her mother. It’s a stack of math workbooks with notes encouraging her to “concentrate” and “not get distracted, as is your habit.”
Who does that??
From that moment, Molly’s day turns into a total bummer. Everything goes wrong no matter how hard Mal tries to cheer her up. I mean, you know your day’s sunk when not even Chef Kzyzzy’s famous HOLY MOLY VEGAN GUACAMOLE does the trick.
Luckily, it’s around this time that Mal finds herself in a very intriguingly annoying situation herself: where the Gunta Stölzl have all her socks gone??
In a final attempt to bring Molly back to a math-less mood, Mal decides to make the missing socks an actual issue. This isn’t just an odd inconvenience anymore — it’s a MYSTERY! And what self-respecting Lumberjane could resist tackling the greatest mystery of the modern era??
Of course, in true Camp Lumberjanes fashion, the Roanoke scouts’ search leads them not to some boring washing machine wormhole, but to…A GHOST CABIN!!! What do these old-timey scouts want with Mal’s socks? Why do their swears all have to do with food? And can a hundred-year-old mistake actually help Mal and Molly face their greatest fears?
This is a lovely book for anyone who’s dealt with overbearing adult expectations, as well as other Real World pressures that keep one up at night. It’s about letting go and sticking together, about healing yourself by helping someone else, and about realizing that love isn’t dependent on proximity. AND (ok, slight spoiler alert)…
THERE’S AN UNDERWATER LABYRINTH INVOLVED. Tell me you’re not picturing a very glittery, mullet-ed merman singing “Splash Magic Splash” while contact-juggling bubbles.
What are your favorite cozy mysteries, Bookwyrms? What books have helped distract you from Real Life stress (or even helped you overcome some of it)? Any fun bookish podcasts that have made 2020 more bearable?
I snaked the surf slang from Wave Tribe’s Glossary. Like a total quimby.
Oh! I actually have an answer to your question about what I’ve been reading lately! I can’t say it’s a ghostly thriller, but I recently finished reading Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt. It’s a tale of kids who were abandoned by their mother in a car and how they travel, on foot, to their relatives house in search of a home and answers about their missing mother. The story is a bit sad at times, but it has a good ending 🙂
Oh, that’s a good one! I read Homecoming in middle or high school, and the sequel, Dicey’s Song. From what I remember, Dicey makes a very badass friend and pwns a teacher who accuses her of cheating on a paper.
I didn’t know there was a follow-up book!! I’ll have to check that out…literally! At the library 😛