Thursday, June 7, 2012

Key in the Attic Review

by Barbara Early

There’s not many girls who can’t recall time spent with a Nancy Drew book in hand. Whether read while stretched in a hammock in the summer sunshine, curled up in a chair in front of the fireplace, or under the covers with a flashlight, hopefully the books inspire a pattern of lifelong reading.

For me, I consumed them, sighed when no new ones remained on the shelves, then graduated to Agatha Christie. I left mystery behind for a time while I wandered through various genres. I read some romances, some sci-fi, some fantasy, a smattering of Christian fiction, and a lot of classics. I read children’s and YA as my daughter did. And then, at a difficult time, a transitional time when people disappointed and circumstances were unsettled and difficult, plagued by insomnia, I turned to the comfort of an old friend: the cozy mystery.

And I fell in love all over again.

A cozy mystery is like a good friend, a warm quilt, a cup of herbal tea, or a treasured cat: soothing, mildly mentally stimulating, entertaining, and often heart-warming. Not too challenging. Not offensive. Not in the least bit edgy. Probably not life-shattering--but then again, who wants their life shattered anyway? Cozies take us to pleasant places, introduce us to quirky, interesting people, and affirm our hope in justice, and prevailing goodness.

The Key in the Attic, by our DeAnna Julie Dodson is just such a book.

Annie Dawson
Annie Dawson, the protagonist in the Annie’s Attic series, is a young widow and grandmother. She has retired to the seaside community of Stony Point, residing in the house that once belonged to her grandmother. The attic in the house is still filled with her grandmother’s treasures, and it’s those treasures that inspire each mystery in this long-running series.

Mary Beth
Annie is cleaning out her grandmother’s attic again, this time looking for smaller items to sell. She hopes she and her friends from the Hook and Needle club can help a local shop-owner, Mary Beth. Her business, A Stitch in Time, seems to be experiencing a lull. What Annie finds instead, with a little help from her cat, is an antique key. And where there’s a key, there’s got to be a lock. And where there’s a lock, what better thing can you find but an old coded message, dating back to prior to the Civil War?

OK, this is really Big Boy
Of course, when Mary Beth owns up to what is really bothering her, there’s more at stake than her business. She’s unsuccessfully trying to raise money to purchase the storefront she rents--otherwise it, and the theater next door might just be sold and developed into a…oh the horror!...a Burly Boy restaurant, complete with large Burly Boy statue. The idyllic town square would be defaced, and the small shop so vital to the social life of the women of Stony Point would be moved miles away.

Like others in this series, there is no murder. There are puzzles for Annie and friends (and the reader) to solve, and some minor break-ins, as Annie and friends follow a trail of coded messages while looking for solutions to Mary Beth’s financial dilemma. There’s a hint of a potential romance, some family drama, and craft, antiques and historical references all interwoven with the mystery. Add a chuckle at Annie’s unusual and resourceful method for making the villain ’fess up, and The Key in the Attic was a satisfying, cozy read.

Letters in the Attic and The Key in the Attic are available exclusively from Annie’s Attic Mysteries. Their website is set up for a subscription to the series, but if you'd like to buy just Letters in the Attic or The Key in the Attic, you can contact Customer Service at (800)282-6643 (8 a.m. - 7 p.m. [CST] Mon. - Fri.) or e-mail them at


  1. Wonderful review Barb! You definitely nailed me with the Nancy Drews. I went big for romantic suspense later --not that Ned Nickerson was an alpha hero but I admit that I really want a puzzle/mystery/suspense in any plot I read or write!

    You've sold me on all the reasons I'll enjoy Annie's Attic books but I'm glad to know they work as standalones. It's been a lot of fun focusing on DeAnna and The Key in the Attic this week!

    I love the fact the needlework company created this whole idea for a mystery! how clever!

  2. Great review, Barb. I too must confess to craving a puzzle or mystery to solve in my stories too. Just like no novel feels quite complete without a hint of romance.

  3. A fair number of Inkies are into mysteries! I like that.

  4. Deb, it was a clever premise for a series. Crafting and cozies are popular among similar demographic lines. So glad it's been a success for them.

  5. Thank for the nice review, Barb!

    Yes, the Annie books are very light and fun, very gentle reads. Nothing that's going to keep you up at night.

    The AA people want them to be books the whole family can enjoy.


  6. Lisa--

    When I said a hint of romance--well, I'm afraid if you want to see one develop, you'd have to read forward from here. Like many cozies, I'm sure they are going to tease the reader for a while. ;)

  7. Fun review, Barb. I'm looking forward to reading DeAnna's book.

    Shhh! I have a confession to make: every once in a while, I'll read a Nancy Drew book. I try to tell myself it's research in case I want to write a YA, but I might be fooling myself with that one. ;-)

  8. Suzie--

    It's been a while since a read a ND, but I have read them as an adult. I'll confess to keeping them in my office. Saving them for the grandkids, someday. That's my excuse.

  9. DeAnna--

    And this would be a perfect book for younger readers graduating from Nancy Drew. I hadn't thought of that.

  10. You know, I've never read ND. I feel ashamed. Maybe I'll have to try one out!

    And, yes, I don't think there's anything in the Annie books that a young teen couldn't read. The publishers are VERY conservative.

    And, yes, they're really teasing the romance part. I just NOW (for book 25!) got permission to have Annie realize she might have serious feelings for the Mayor. ;)

  11. DeAnna, May I recommend the first one, of the Old Clock? LOL.

  12. Snerk. What a coincidence! :D


  13. DeAnna, I never read a Nancy Drew book either. Don't know why. Read a lot of Trixie Belden back in the day. And there was an author who wrote stand alone YA mysteries that I loved. I wish I could remember the author's name. I could tell you where the books were shelved in the town library -- except I'm sure the books, like the old library itself, are long gone.

  14. I was also a Trixie Belden reader -- don't think I read Nancy Drew either. Maybe I'll have to catch up too!

  15. I loved Trixie Belden, too! DeAnna, I agree with Barb - The Secret in the Old Clock. And if at all possible, the closer you get to the original pub date, the better. There is such a sense of history in those earlier versions. Nancy and her roadster, and all the illustrations - they're very cool.

  16. Elaine, Suzie--there's a couple votes for Trixie Belden. I must confess I never read her. I'll have to get a copy one lazy summer afternoon and check it out.

  17. Oh how fun! I definitely want to read this, but I think my daughter would enjoy it, too. We are staunch Nancy Drew fans around here.

    So excited for you, DeAnna!

    And I'm very curious about that mayor...

  18. Ooh! CJ! I think you are the first fellow Trixie Belden reader I've run into! I read ND, too, though.
    In fact, while dressing for church last week and debating the need for putting on pantyhose, I was reminded of Trixie, and her hopes that her tan would cover up the bumps and nicks and scrapes...


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