Wilma Tenderfoot: The Case of the Frozen Hearts by Emma Kennedy

Goodreads: Wilma Tenderfoot: The Case of the Frozen Hearts
Series: Wilma Tenderfoot #1
Source: ARC

Goodreads Summary: “Nothing and nobody stops Wilma Tenderfoot!” (If she does say so herself.)

Wilma Tenderfoot, a tiny, brash, and determined ten-year-old orphan, dreams of becoming a worldfamous detective so she can find out who her parents are. Wilma discovers that her new next-door neighbor is the renowned detective Theodore P. Goodman, and he has a new case. Wilma is set on becoming Mr. Goodman’s apprentice, so with the help of her beagle, Pickle, she makes deductions, follows leads, and scouts out suspects. She’s sure she’ll win the famous detective over and crack the case, as soon as Pickle stops eating the clues.

With wicked humor, dastardly villains, red herrings, and a setting that would make Sherlock Holmes proud, this mystery is just like Wilma-funny, feisty, cheeky, and charming.

Review: This first installment offers an intriguing mystery—a newly discovered gem stone has been stolen and people are being murdered, found with no damage besides frozen hearts.  What kind of villain could be so greedy and cruel with powers bordering on the supernatural?  Clues and red herrings abound as serious detective Theodore P. Goodman, Wilma, and the reader race to find out.

Wilma is an endearing character in her idolization of the illustrious detective Goodman and in her persistence in attempting to become his apprentice.  He may send her away, but she always comes back determined to find more clues and impress him.  Unfortunately, Wilma—and the lovable Pickles—often cause more damage than good.  Her mistakes read realistically, but have the potential to resonate more with older readers than with children who will just see someone their own age constantly messing things up.

The author’s incorporation of advanced vocabulary is also a sticking point.  Would someone Wilma’s age need to ask for definitions of half the words Detective Goodman uses?  Quite possibly.  Yet the pattern of Wilma’s saying, “What does that mean?” and Goodman answering her gets old, and smart children will recognize that some adult (Kennedy, her editor, someone) thinks they do not know the definitions, either.  If they do not, the fact that young readers can continue the story without constant interruptions with a dictionary will be completely welcome. (Who doesn’t hate stopping every two minutes to look up a word?)  But Kennedy could have been far more subtle.

The story is just dark enough to be edgy for young readers.  Murders?  Check.  Cruel mistresses?  Check.  An orphanage where children are starved and sometimes beaten?  Check.  Nothing is overwhelming frightening, but this is not an entirely happy-go-lucky tale.

It is lightened by Wilma herself and by Kennedy’s writing style.  Unfortunately, this is a book for which readers definitely need to have the correct sense of humor and appreciation of the absurd if they are to appreciate it properly.  One needs to get some sort of enjoyment out of Wilma’s being assigned to pick boogies from her mistress’s nose, for instance, or to think that calling a town That Town Over There is amusing.  If not…well, the book is long enough that the writing will become annoying long before one gets to the end.

Wilma Tenderfoot has its good points, but I do think it is for me.

Published: 2011 (Dial Books)

One thought on “Wilma Tenderfoot: The Case of the Frozen Hearts by Emma Kennedy

  1. revgeorge says:

    And by “you do think it is for you” you mean “I don’t think it is for me?” 😉

    Another very good review. I’ve added it to my wish list. But then I say that about a lot of books.


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