In Stephanie Tromly’s debut novel, Trouble is a Friend of Mine, Zoe Webster’s parents just got divorced and she is forced to live with her mom,
leave her friends and home in Brooklyn and move to boring upstate New York. She didn’t choose to be friends with Phillip Digby, but he just appeared on her doorstep and decided Zoe could help him find the missing Marina Miller, a teen who had disappeared that summer. Digby wears a suit that’s too big for him, talks fast, doesn’t take no for an answer, and is observant and smart. Soon, Zoe and Digby, as well as their friends Henry, Felix, and Henry’s girlfriend, are getting into all sorts of trouble. Breaking into buildings, meeting drug dealers, causing problems with the cultists next door, and throughout it all having adventures. But, we also learn there is more to Digby and the rest of the gang than meets the eye. Digby is in search of his younger sister, Sally who was kidnapped 8 years ago and he has been honing his detective skills in order to find her.
After leaving town at the end of the first novel, Digby returns in Trouble Makes a Comeback to find Zoe with new friends and a boyfriend and preparing for the SATs. But once Digby returns, things get more complicated, as the gang gets back together to help Digby as he continues to uncover clues to his sister’s disappearance. In doing so, they end up in a car chase, breaking and entering, and stopping a drug ring that the high school football team may or may not be involved in.
These two books are so much fun. Tromly has created well-paced novels with characters who you want to learn more about and who I want to spend time with because it seems like life would always be an adventure. The characters are witty and I laughed throughout the book. Narrated by Zoe, as a fan of Veronica Mars, I was drawn to her character and her sassiness. Digby very much represents a different take on Sherlock Holmes, being smarter than everyone else involved and well ahead ofthem all in solving the mysteries in which they become entangled.
Although there are times when the action becomes somewhat unrealistic, the well-developed characters and relationships allow forgiveness for this fun series. And, with both novels, Tromly leaves the reader wanting more Zoe and Digby.
Note: This review was first published in PCA/ACA Mystery & Detective Reading List (Spring 2017)