Pawns by Willo Davis Roberts

Pawns by Willo Davis Roberts

Roberts, Willo Davis. Pawns. Atheneum, 1998. ISBN 978-0689816680 160 pp. $


Orphan Teddi, recovering from many losses, has finally begun to adjust to life with her next-door-neighbor turned foster mother Marnie when Dora shows up on their doorstep, pregnant and claiming to be the wife of Marnie’s estranged and recently deceased son Ricky. Kindly Marnie takes her in and Dora casually usurps Teddi’s place in the house. Teddi, feeling displaced, thinks there may be something about Dora’s story that doesn’t quite ring true. Her conscience questions her gut instincts, and she wonders if she is hunting for clues that aren’t really there because she is jealous. An attractive boy who moves into Teddi’s old house becomes an accomplice in the investigation to discover who Dora really is. Will Teddi and Marnie become pawns to Dora’s plot to get Ricky’s insurance money?

Roberts, three-time winner of the prestigious Edgar Allen Poe award for mystery for teens, creates a well-crafted dramatic story. Teddi’s process of deduction is very clear and easy to follow, and the reader feels smart watching Dora trip up again and again, waiting for Teddi to catch her in a lie. The relationship between Teddi and Jason is charming, although the characters seem either younger than their ages (14 and 16) or very naive.
The amount of tragedy in the book is a
and possibly abusive husband, a cut forehead, and a burned finger. The ending is unpredictable (we know Dora is a fraud, but we aren’t sure how Teddi will expose her) and very satisfying.

Roberts presents a resilient and bright female protagonist who confronts an obstacle and is able to begin to face her fears and address her concerns with her guardian. I had only read one of her books previously, and loved it, and it was a delight to rediscover the author. Purchase where mysteries are popular; fans of Betty Ren Wright may enjoy this title.

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