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Nancy Drew meets Harriet the Spy in this action-packed and heartfelt debut middle grade following an overzealous amateur sleuth as she investigates a shocking family secret—and unravels the mystery of her developing feelings for girls.

Rule One: Your loyalty is to the case.

Amateur detective Pepper Blouse has always held true to this rule, even if it meant pushing people away. But when the results of Pepper’s latest case cost her any hope of the girl she likes returning her feelings, she decides that maybe she should lay low for a while.

That is, until her Great Aunt Florence passes away under mysterious circumstances. And even though her dad insists there’s nothing to investigate, Pepper can’t just ignore rule fourteen: Trust your gut.

But there’s nothing in the rulebook that could’ve prepared her for the family secrets her investigation uncovers.

Maybe it’s time to stop playing by the rules.

Briana McDonald’s fiction has appeared in Rozyln: Short Fiction by Women WritersMarathon Literary ReviewThe Stonecoast Review, and more. She is a book reviewer at The Literary Review and a reader for CLMP’s Firecracker Awards. She is an academic advisor at Columbia University. Pepper’s Rules for Secret Sleuthing is her debut novel. Find out more at BrianaRoseMcDonald.com.

"Exciting and fast-paced... A fun debut that is notable for its thematic depth and queer characters."

– Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2020

“Irrepressible and lovable, Pepper joins the ranks of the best kid sleuths—and shows that sometimes the heart is the toughest mystery.”

– Eliot Schrefer, author of National Book Award Finalist Endangered

“McDonald has crafted a debut chock full of heart. Pepper isn't just a queer Nancy Drew—she's a relatable and lovable character all her own.”

– Nicole Melleby, author of Hurricane Season

“A modern take on a classic genre. Pepper is a hero kids will root for.” 

– Eric Bell, author of Alan Cole is Not a Coward

“This Nancy-Drew-style sleuthing tale with a modern sensibility will delight middle grade readers craving suspense, mystery and puzzles. A page-turner packed with wisdom and heart.”

– Barbara Dee, author of Star-Crossed

"A great modern... mystery classic."

– School Library Journal, September 1, 2020