Against My Better Judgment
by B.T. Polcari
Wild Rose Press

"'What the... Mauzzy, get over here and look at this.'"

Sara Donovan is in her second semester at the University of Alabama and struggling to make sure she maintains a healthy grade point average so her father will agree to her continuing her education at the university. She is behind on her Egyptology class research assignment concerning the smuggling of antiquities and beginning to fear she might not finish it in time for the sixty-minute presentation she must make in order to pass. When she discovers that the souvenir she purchases from the Dauphin Museum is possibly a valuable piece stolen from Egypt's antiquities, she wonders if something is amiss at the museum. As she works part-time in the museum's gift shop, she begins to investigate their shipments and becomes even more convinced that she is on the right track. When her new neighbor, the handsome and mysterious Conner, turns out to be the new TA for her Egyptology class, she finds herself questioning his motives and becomes even more certain that there is a smuggling ring at work in Tuscaloosa.

Sara, however, has a history of jumping to conclusions and feels she must have more evidence before presenting her theory to the authorities. Bouncing her ideas off her faithful but precocious dachshund, Mauzzy, and her best friend and voice of reason, Zoe, Sara begins to piece together what is happening at the museum and who is involved. The more she discovers, the more certain she becomes that there is a smuggling ring in the quaint town of Tuscaloosa and that the museum in which she is employed is indeed at the center of everything. But with her history of reporting suspicious activities of neighbors, which turned out to be nothing, who will believe such a far-fetched theory?

In this fast-paced, young adult mystery, protagonist Sara Donovan is a lovable, bungling character with whom readers will fall in love. Not only is she smart and funny, but she's also a bit clumsy, which plays into the storyline quite well. A relatable character, Sara is sure to touch the hearts and funny bones of young adult readers with her antics and constant dropping of her phone. Her sidekick, Mauzzy, adds to her relatability as she holds conversations with the headstrong pup. Mauzzy supplies an added layer of humor in the story: "He snorted, sneezed on my bare leg, and retreated to his recliner. 'That's rude.' With another snort, he pivoted and laid down, his fat butt facing me. 'Way to use your words, Mauz.'"

Polcari's debut novel and the first book in a series is a winner. The author is spot-on in creating believable dialogue and characters. The humor in the book is at times laugh-out-loud funny as protagonist Sara fumbles her way into uncovering the criminals. Polcari is definitely onto something here. The bungling Sara and delightful Mauzzy make for great entertainment in this mystery of plot twists and adventure. Readers of all ages will find much to like in this page-turning offering, keeping them reading into the wee hours to discover how it all turns out in this well-written first work.

An Honorable Mention in the 2021 Eric Hoffer Book Award Mystery/Crime Category

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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