Sammy knew that getting to know her new rockstar dad on a cruise would be a little uncomfortable. . . . But when the heiress to a perfume empire disappears from the ship, it turns out everyone's in for a rocky ride.
In this penultimate book in the Sammy Keyes mystery series, Wendelin Van Draanen pays homage to the mystery genre. This book is a classic locked-room whodunnit—Sammy Keyes style.
The Sammy Keyes mysteries are fast-paced, funny, thoroughly modern, and true whodunits. Each mystery is exciting and dramatic, but it's the drama in Sammy's personal life that keeps readers coming back to see what happens next with her love interest Casey, her soap-star mother, and her mysterious father.
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I was allowed to bring one friend. And since Marissa McKenze has been my best friend since third grade, and since it looks like she'll be moving to Ohio in June because her mom's lined up a job there, and who knows how long it'll be before I'll get to do anything with her again after that, and since I wasn't allowed to bring Casey because he's my boyfriend and it would have been "inappropriate," and since my other good friend Holly thought cruising sounded like a nightmare, the choice was easy.
Even Mrs. McKenze was for it, and she's never for anything that has to do with her daughter spending time with me. According to her, I'm "hazardous."
And yet, there we were, at the Long Beach dock with our luggage and passports, about to cruise to Mexico.
Actually, I think Mrs. McKenze being okay with the trip had more to do with Darren Cole being my dad than her daughter having one last adventure with her best friend.
He seems to have that effect on middle-aged women.
Something about the shaggy hair and the guitar makes them lose their minds.
Or, at least, their common sense.
Him sending a car service to get us to the dock didn't hurt, either. Mrs. McKenze actually gasped when she heard it was how we were getting to Los Angeles, and I could tell I was suddenly a friend she wanted her daughter to hang with instead of the "hazard" I'd been before. Why a week away with a musician didn't register as a hazard to her was beyond me, but like I said, common sense didn't apply.
Marissa was over the moon about going on the cruise. She'd been on cruises before with her family, pre-financial meltdown/divorce. "It's awesome, Sammy. You have no idea! You can't even picture it, it's so amazing! It's like twenty stories of a Las Vegas resort steaming through the ocean!"
I've been to Las Vegas, so that didn't help sell me on the idea at all.
And since she hadn't actually met my dad in person yet, she'd blown the whole thing way out of proportion. People would ask us what we were doing over spring break, and she'd say, "Sammy and I are going on a celebrity cruise!"
"It's not a celebrity cruise!" I'd tell her through my teeth.
"Sure it is! Your dad's a celebrity and he's playing on the cruise!"
"He's playing one night. That's all!"
But it was like she couldn't help herself. She kept letting it slip out until finally I told her, "Knock it off or stay home!"
Her eyes had gotten huge. "You wouldn't do that to me!"
"Yes, I would! The whole situation is embarrassing enough without you doing this!"
Which it was. It had only been about six weeks since I'd found out that my dad was Darren Cole of Darren Cole and the Troublemakers, and I was still pretty weirded out by it. Partly because going from being poor to finding out you're the daughter of a rock star puts you smack-dab in the middle of some really strange territory, and partly because people at school love to gossip and Darren Cole being my father became Big News fast.
It was amazing to see how many new "friends" I suddenly had, too. People who'd made fun of me before were now kissing up to me.
Thanks, but no thanks.
And Darren had set me up with a cell phonemy first one ever, if you can believe that. At first I was like, Wow, this is so cool! But then my mother started calling. And texting. Like, constantly. It made me wish I didn't have a phone, because instead of just being able to come up with some excuse about where I was or why I was late, I was now on a buzzing leash.
What's weird was that she wasn't checking up on me or being, you know, supervisorial. Since she'd moved to Hollywood, we'd really grown apart, and now she was using the phone as a way to try to reconnect.
Either that or she was worried or jealous or whatever because Darren was texting me, too, trying to get to know me, asking me things that she was clueless about. I mean, how embarrassing is that? Keeping your daughter from her dad for almost fourteen years and then having her dad know things about her that you don't?
So between her being all, Come to L.A. for the weekend! Let's go shopping! and Darren texting things like, "Dream pet?" and "Favorite color?" and "Worst subject?" I was the one hiding and avoiding and "forgetting" to turn on my phone.
I was really relieved when Darren told me I couldn't use my phone on the cruisesomething about "sky-high international rates." But I think it also had to do with the whole point of the cruise, which was us getting to know each other, not constantly texting.
I was also relieved when he told my mother that she couldn't come on the cruise with us. He didn't say it because he didn't like herthey were obviously back to being nuts about each otherbut because with her around, there was no way I was going to relax and he knew it. So he told her no, even though that meant she was going to miss my fourteenth birthday.
I was secretly happy not to have her around on my birthday, seeing how she'd totally messed up the last one. Grams, I kind of felt bad about because she'd not only been at every one of my birthdays, but she'd also been there for me on all the days in between. But she was married to Hudson now, and the two of them were doing a slow transition from the Senior Highrise, where Grams and I had been living for the past two and a half years, to Hudson's house on Cypress Street.
There was nothing slow about my transition out of the Highrise. Hudson invited me to live with them and, boom, I was gone. And my cat, Dorito, loved prowling around. So at first I didn't really get why Grams couldn't just abandon the Highrise and live happily ever after on Cypress Street, but Hudson explained that it was hard for Grams to give up her independence so spontaneously.
I guess Las Vegas weddings have their aftershocks, even when you're a senior citizen.
Grams and Hudson had thrown a little pre-birthday cake-and-ice-cream party for me, which was nice, but also sort of strange because thirteen wasn't actually over yet and my mother was trying too hard to make up for last year's fiasco. The best part of the party was definitely that Casey was there and had customized a pair of gray high-tops for me by writing on them with a black Sharpie. Both shoes were covered with things like "Shortcut Sammy Rides Again!" and "Holy Smokes!" and "Dive for the Bushes!" Plus he'd drawn little pictures that brought back funny memories. There was a pig labeled "Penny" and some skulls labeled "Not Candy!" and a headstone labeled "Sassypants."
And then there was the heart with "S+C Forever" in it.
It was the most amazing present ever.