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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Puzzle Trees is a young adult mystery written by Thom Mark Shepard. Joe Sheffield is a freshman in high school. He's pretty much on his own in school now that his best friends, the Brill twins, moved away and his other best friend, Dave, became a popular jock. When Gina, a tall girl with tons of hair who keeps to herself, asks him for help returning a stolen watch to another girl in class, Joe agrees; but then he totally flubs the return and is blamed for the theft. The angry watch-owner turns him in to their teacher who then escorts him to Principle Popkin's office. Popkin looks just like one of the bad guys from the horror movies Joe and his brother like to watch, and it seems like Joe will be suspended or expelled. However, Popkin has another idea. His kitten has disappeared, and he wants her found. He gives Joe a picture of Sis and offers to forget about the watch incident if Joe can find her.
Thom Mark Shepard's young adult mystery, Puzzle Trees, combines the puzzling disappearance of a number of pet cats with an original and entertaining coming of age story. Shepard's characters are quirky and fun to follow as they try to find the missing cats. The plot is unpredictable and gets a lot of traction from Joe's predilection for horror movies and monster comic books. I enjoyed seeing how Joe and his step-brother work through their issues, and loved the oddball trilogy of Joe, Gina and Big Fred, the somewhat slow guy who even teachers pick on in class. Puzzle Trees will please adult readers who are young at heart as well as the targeted young adult audience. It's a well-written, absorbing mystery with depth and appeal. Puzzle Trees is highly recommended.