12.17.2010

Ofelia Dumas Lachtman and the Mystery Novel

Looking for La Unica by Ofelia Dumas Lachtman
(Arte Publico Press/Pinata Books, 2004)

I was only recently introduced to the work of Ofelia Dumas Lachtman by Marina Tristan at Arte Publico, after I asked if she knew of any detective/mystery novels out there for children or young adults by Mexican American writers. She said, "Oh, sure, there's this author we publish." She put a few of Lachtman's titles in the mail for me, and though I'm a horribly slow reader, I finally finshed Looking for La Unica (the follow-up to The Summer of El Pintor). In Unica, Monica Ramos is spending her first summer on Lucia Street where she and her dad have moved to after he lost his job in the D.C. area. She is conflicted about her new home because on the one hand it isn't her old posh neighborhood where she'd been friends with some of the girls from school but it is the place where her mother grew up. Curious like she is, she doesn't have to look for mysteries to solve, they simply find her. In this one, La Unica goes missing. Come to find out, La Unica is a guitar, but not just any guitar: it has been in the Salcedo family for a couple of generations, the product of a forefather master-guitarmaker. Accused of being one of the thieves, Monica will discover the real rat in order to prove to Mr. Salcedo that he couldn't be more wrong in putting the blame on her. The search is on, and Monica finds way more than what she sets out for originally.

So, I'll get to The Summer of El Pintor sometime during the Christmas Holidays, but right now I'm reading another of Lachtman's novels, Call Me Consuelo, a mystery for slightly younger readers than Unica as Consuelo is herself 12 years old.

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