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Goldie Vance: The Hotel Whodunit
Illustrated by Elle Power
Created by Hope Larson
Created by Brittney Williams
Formats and Prices
- Hardcover $14.99 $19.99 CAD
- ebook $9.99 $12.99 CAD
- Audiobook Download (Unabridged)
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around March 17, 2020. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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TRIOS OF SWAMP THINGS ARE DEEP IN CONVERSATION over by the lobby’s fountain. A man with scaly skin in a slim suit pulls a toothpick from his mouth while a mermaid with long blond hair that practically sweeps the floor follows one of the bellhops into the hotel. The Crossed Palms Resort is being overrun by sea creatures and mermaids.
I pull out my trusty pad and pencil and quickly jot this down: Mark this day—strange things are afoot.
“Darling, I simply must have my ring,” Miss Dupart whispers. “How will I ever be cast in this movie if I don’t have the right accoutrement?”
“No worries, Miss Dupart. I’m on the case!” I open the door to Miss Dupart’s mint-green convertible and dive deep into the back seat.
Miss Dupart is a regular at the Crossed Palms Resort. She’s been living in the hotel as long as I have. Correction: She’s been living here even longer. Ever since the first palm trees swayed their palms, darling is what she loves to say. Miss Dupart used to be a big-time actress in Hollywood, but now she waits for the right roles to land in her lap here in St. Pascal, Florida, which means she spends a lot of time by the pool lounging and primping. The thing I love most about Miss Dupart is the way she whisper-talks, like she’s about to divulge the most scandalous of secrets.
“My emerald ring was a gift from the ambassador to Spain, or was it the cowboy from San Antonio?” she whisper-talks. “Either way, it’s very important to me. You must find it.”
“I totally understand, Miss Dupart,” I say.
Every morning Miss Dupart likes to drive her vintage green car along the coast. She says the ocean air does wonders for her skin. When she got back this morning, she immediately realized her ring was missing. It’s a good thing I’m her valet.
“Darling, have you seen the raw talent around here?”
Miss Dupart is dressed head to toe in a mint-green dress—her favorite color—and oversize sun hat, with Clementine, her tiny poodle, yapping beside her.
“Will you be auditioning?” she asks.
“Oh no, not me, Miss Dupart. I’ll leave that for the professionals. Besides, I’m sure Walter needs me to keep my eyes and ears open. You never know what mysteries might unfold.”
My official job at the Crossed Palms Resort is valet, meaning I get to park the cars. But what I really want to do, more than anything in the whole wide world, is be the hotel’s house detective. I’m already working as assistant to the current house detective, Walter Tooey. I mean, technically, he’s not supposed to have an assistant, but there’s no way he can handle this whole resort on his own, not when there are always kids running off and getting lost, jewelry going missing, and cars being vandalized. There was also that one time the entire cast of some variety show was sabotaged by a jealous singer. Too bad the singer left her nefarious to-do list written behind some sheet music I found thrown in the trash. Nothing gets past me. Anyway, all this is to say that I’ve been proving I have what it takes to be a stellar detective. I’m just due for a promotion soon; I’m sure of it.
While I wait for that to happen, I negotiate elbow room with Clementine the poodle, who has decided to join me in the back seat.
“What do you think, Clementine? Do you know where the ring is?” I ask. Clementine answers with a sloppy lick on my face.
“I’ve never been one for genre ever since I was cast in that horrid vampire movie in the thirties with Bela Whatever-his-name-is, but they say sea monsters are the latest rage,” Miss Dupart chimes in.
“Not a problem, Miss Dupart. I’ll find it. I have all the confidence in the world!” I yell over Clementine, who is yapping her concern. Clementine doesn’t think I’ve got the chops to perform this miraculous feat. The poodle is forgetting one thing: I’m Goldie Vance, the soon-to-be-renowned house detective of this establishment, and there’s no doubt that this mystery will be solved in three… two…
“Sweet Annette Funicello! I found it!”
I leap out from the back seat, my fingers clutching the brilliant ring. A half-swamp thing, half man with sandy-blond hair who’s talking to an older woman with severe bangs looks over my way for a second, but they return to their intense conversation totally unfazed. Miss Dupart is elated.
“Goldie, darling, you truly are a godsend,” says Miss Dupart while she places the ring on her wrinkly finger alongside all her other rings. “I’d better make my entrance. You never know if they’re looking for another damsel in distress.”
Miss Dupart hands me a dollar, and I tuck the crisp new bill inside the pocket of my scratchy uniform. This time, Clementine’s bark is one of approval.
“Break a leg, Miss Dupart,” I say.
The Crossed Palms Resort is a sprawling estate with three—count ’em—three pools. There are cabanas, cabana boys, a lounge with a piano, a cigar room, and an extravagant ballroom for weddings and fancy parties. Guests can learn how to cha-cha-cha or be left alone to stroll on the beach looking for seashells. We even have honest-to-goodness pink flamingos roaming around. Anyone who is anyone ends up staying at the Crossed Palms. Starlets, families, and mambo singers straight from Cuba. You name it, I’ve seen it all.
So that’s what you see when you’re checking in, but what you don’t see is the behind-the-scenes magic that makes this hotel run so smoothly. I know every secret hallway—including the one that will lead me to Chef François (where he will let me sneak a taste of his famous onion soup) or the one that takes me to where a high-stakes game of cards is starting. As a kid I played hide-and-seek in the laundry room and was taught how to Hula-Hoop by a magician. I think I “borrowed” my first golf cart at eight? (Don’t tell anyone.) The Crossed Palms Resort has been my home ever since Dad got a job working here ten years ago. Now that I’m sixteen, I get to work here, too. All I need is that one big case to make me an official detective. It will happen soon enough. I can feel it in my bones; just need to keep my eyes and ears open. Actually, I need all my senses working in order to make my private-eye dreams come true!
When Mr. Maple, the owner of the Crossed Palms Resort, alerted us that the Baldwin Movie Studios was planning to shoot their film at the hotel, I had no idea it would mean a full-on convention of movie monsters and serious movie-business types. Mr. Maple warned us to treat every single person arriving at the hotel like royalty. His actual words: “Each demand by these Hollywood types, no matter the case, must be met with expediency and a smile. Understood?” Mr. Maple can be a bit demanding himself, but that’s beside the point. Message was received loud and clear. Demands must be met!
A silver Corvette pulls up to the valet tent. What a beaut. A 1951 original. On first impression, the guy pulling up definitely falls in the demanding-movie-business-type category, especially with the large cigar he’s chomping on.
“Welcome to the Crossed Palms Resort, the hotel where your every wish is at your fingertips!” I say.
Mr. Very Important barely grumbles.
“Find a shady spot,” he says, and tosses me his car keys.
“Of course, sir.”
The thing about being a good detective is that you have to pay close attention to details. For example, I notice how his car is immaculately polished. It is as shiny as if it were new. This can mean one of two things: Either Mr. Very Important likes things to be immaculate, or maybe he doesn’t want to leave behind any evidence of his recent whereabouts. But next I notice that he collects matchbooks, which reveal exactly where he’s been. Aha. I note that one matchbook is from New York, courtesy of the Empire State Building illustration. Another one is from Malibu, Los Angeles. You can tell by the surf. The last item I notice is a small pink handkerchief, smelling of a strong perfume and peeking out from under the front seat. Is it from his wife? Or a movie star? Or is it his? Who knows?
While I let everything percolate in my brain, I’ll flex my driving skills in this beautiful silver baby. I pop the clutch and hit the accelerator. I’m sure Mr. Very Important won’t mind if I really test his car, make sure it can handle hairpin turns. After a couple of loops around the lot, I finally find the perfect shady space.
What do you know? It’s break time.
I head inside the lobby, which is bustling with guests checking in. It’s Monday morning and the excitement is simmering.
“Hey, Cheryl,” I yell across the lobby. “Can you believe it? You must be in heaven studying these sea creatures.”
Cheryl Lebeaux is by far the smartest girl I know. She wants to be an astronaut; that’s how smart she is. Who else would read a five-pound science book for fun?
“Ha! If only they were real. Just a bunch of actors in rubber costumes. Anyway, I want to study actual stars, as in hydrogen and helium, straight from the cosmos,” she says dreamily, staring up at the ceiling. I try to decipher the diagrams in the oversize science book she has open on the counter. It’s so complicated. I don’t know how she does it. “And speaking of space, you need to stop using the cars you park as your personal spaceships.”
“Well, I figured if I find the right velocity timed with the right pressure and x factor something something, I’ll be the first person to land on the moon.”
“Be serious, Goldie.” She grabs the science book from me. “Don’t let Mr. Maple see you or you’ll be toast.”
“Why? Is he here?” I look around. I must confess: I didn’t stop with golf carts. I’ve been known to “borrow” cars once in a while. I consider each one its own unique tutorial. I mean, if I continue to be a solid driver, then I can only be that much more valuable to the resort. Right?
“No, he’s not here, not yet anyway. He’s called here at least three times today. I’ve sat in so many meetings. Who to look out for. Who is arriving early. Who is arriving late. This person has to sleep on this floor. This one wants only firm pillows. I have a headache figuring it all out.”
Cheryl’s job covers a little bit of everything. She’s responsible for finding the perfect activities and adventures for our guests. Anything and everything from scenic tours to pottery or cooking classes to the best restaurants to eat at. Cheryl’s like an encyclopedia, which is great for the hotel guests but not so great for her.
“We should totally take a break and go follow some mermaids around,” I say. “What do you say?”
“Mermaid shmermaid,” Cheryl says. “I want to be a sea creature with extra scales like them.”
We stare at a couple of creatures casually walking across the lobby. It’s hard not to laugh.
“I can totally see that. Let’s go ask them where we can borrow a couple of costumes.”
“Uh-oh.” Cheryl drops her smile real quick.
“Mr. Maple?” I say, scared to turn around.
“Worse,” Cheryl says. She hurriedly puts away her heavy science book and nervously stares at her ledger of hotel activities.
“What are you two chatting about?”
I recognize the voice and it only means trouble for me with a capital T.
“Hi, Dad!” I greet him with the world’s biggest grin. My lips are practically glued to my teeth.
“Goldie, we’ve talked about this before. Here, it’s Mr. Vance.”
Dad has the look, the slight look of stress. It’s easy to tell because the vein located right below his left eye pulsates oh-so slightly. If I ever need to gauge Dad’s temperature, I need only to glance at the pulsating vein. Right now the vein is a steady tat-tat-tat, which means Dad is about a seven out of ten. Ten being he’s about to blow, not that Dad ever blows. He’s a calm father, sort of like the dad from Father Knows Best, minus the adorable kids. I mean, I’m adorable, but not in the “I wear cute dresses” way, and I’m definitely not a “sit still and be quiet” kid.
It’s hard to guess that Mr. Arthur Vance aka Dad is my dad. There’s a slight resemblance. We definitely have the same nose. But my dad is super tall whereas the tall gene definitely skipped me. The way you can really tell I’m his daughter is by our laugh. Our laugh starts as a timid chuckle and then erupts deep down from the belly until everyone within a hundred-mile radius can hear us. Unfortunately, in this moment, Dad is not laughing. He takes working at the Crossed Palms very seriously, and like everyone here today, Dad is feeling the pressure. Mr. Maple relies on him to keep the resort running smoothly. He’s been in early-morning meetings for weeks gearing up for Baldwin Studios’s checking in. Oh, I do get one more thing from my dad: my love of work!
“Sorry, Mr. Vance. I was telling Cheryl about the monsters. Isn’t it exciting?”
Cheryl refuses to back me up one bit. She’s too busy rearranging items on her desk.
“Did you take care of the family in room 12?” he asks Cheryl. “They wanted the scenic tour through the city but were also looking for a romantic dinner without the kids?”
“Yes, Mr. Vance. All taken care of,” Cheryl says. “I have them set for tomorrow at nine AM on the city private tour. When the tour is done, I’ve got the kids set up for the Tree of Wonder dinner and puppet show while their parents have a reservation at Paloma’s. I reserved table four, which is tucked away from the main dining room.”
“Good work, Cheryl.” Dad nods in approval. I nod, too. Cheryl is the best.
“Goldie, you are not to bother Cheryl while she works,” Dad says. “Aren’t you supposed to be outside?”
And there goes my well-earned break. Dad doesn’t mean to be a party pooper, but business is business. His eyes continuously scan the hotel lobby. I guess I also get some of my detective instincts from Dad since he notices everything. But unlike Dad, who’s always trying to smooth away the imperfections, I want to dive straight into them. Everyone knows that’s where the fun is.
“I still have four minutes left in my break,” I say. “Besides, I haven’t even checked in with Walt yet.”
My dad furrows his brow at me.
“Mr. Tooey, Goldie,” Dad corrects me. At that same moment, he notices one of the actresses looking a bit perplexed. Like the perfect hotel manager he is, he starts to walks toward her. I follow.
Cheryl mouths the word good-bye.
“Goldie, you are not to bother Mr. Tooey.”
“So, what I’m getting from you, Dad—I mean, uh, Mr. Vance—is that I should not be bothering anyone?”
“That is correct. Mr. Maple is very excited about the movie being filmed here. It’s huge exposure for Crossed Palms, which means everything needs to be perfect and everyone needs to be on their toes. Are you on your toes, Goldie?”
I go up on my tiptoes, which isn’t exactly easy when you’re wearing stiff, uncomfortable flatties. To avoid keeling over, I grab Dad’s sleeves. (Even on tippy toes I still can’t reach Dad’s height.) Dad pats the top of my head to gently position my feet back flat on the ground.
“You understand what your responsibilities are?”
“Sure do! Parking cars. Right?”
He leans in and gives me a peck on my forehead.
“I know it’s hard to contain the energy stirring inside of you. If things slow down, you can go see if Mr. Tooey needs help. Are you packed for your weekend with Mom?”
My mom, Sylvie, works nearby at the Mermaid Club, which is just a quick bike ride away. Mom and Dad are divorced, but they remained best friends after they split. The way they explained it to me is that they are way better at being friends than being married. When they divorced, I was really young, so my whole life has really been between the hotel and the Mermaid Club. Two wondrous places to grow up in.
“Yes, I’m going straight there after I’m finished with my shift. Cross my heart.”
One of the bellhops comes over to interrupt Dad’s imminent warning not to dally.
“Goldie.” Dad doesn’t seem to believe me.
“I promise!” I say.
I stride confidently toward the parking lot. As soon as Dad walks off to help quell the bellhop disaster, I take my usual detour.
Dad is busy and I still have two and a half minutes left on my break. Do you know what could happen in two and a half minutes? Just about anything! The day has just begun and the time is right for diving into drama.
JUST LEFT OF THE SPACIOUS LOBBY ARE MULTIPLE corridors leading to various parts of the resort. To avoid any run-ins with Dad, I continue toward the left wing and enter the library with its oversize chairs and the fluffiest pillows. I can spend hours in this room with floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with books; I love reading anything from mysteries to biographies. I also lead story time for the kids staying at the hotel, but not today. At the other end of the library, I exit a concealed side door to one of the smaller ballrooms. The walls are lined with mirrors upon mirrors that show off my reflection. The dance instructor is about to start a lesson. I wave hello and keep moving.
Crossed Palms Resort has tons of great little nooks. I especially love the Japanese garden with a koi pond. The pond is a perfect, serene spot for meditating, walking, and just thinking about things. A couple with two young kids smile at the fish. The fish are brilliantly orange this morning. I cross the wooden bridge with intricate carvings and head to one of the pools. Hammocks tied to palm trees hang over the pool for guests to lounge in. I’ve spent many a day writing in my pad and plotting schemes in so many of these hammocks. And falling asleep, of course.
The flamingos are greeting their morning in pink. The coast is still clear. I press on toward my destination.
Walter Tooey’s office is located right by the lobby, off the main hall of the hotel. I, of course, took a roundabout way of reaching the office. You have to be sneaky when you’re a detective. It’s easy to miss the door marked with a sign that reads DETECTIVE SERVICES, especially since right across from the office is the hotel’s flower shop. Before long, the smell of blooming tiger lilies fills the air. I think it’s pretty smart to have the office located across from the floral shop. Guests feel reassured when such potent fragrances blanket the air.
I greet Ada the florist. She holds out a red carnation, as if she somehow knew I was bound to appear at that very moment.
As any true budding detective would, I was only eight years old when I discovered Walter’s office. It was on one of my daily expeditions to the flower shop. Once a day—before I got too busy with my job as valet—Ada would give me a red carnation. “Una flor para la niña,” she would say. Ada is the sweetest person.
“Buenos días.” I tuck the red carnation into the lapel of my uniform.
“Buenos días, Goldie,” Ada says. She returns to arranging an oversize bouquet.
I motion toward Walt’s door.
“I wouldn’t go in there if I were you,” Ada says. “He’s not alone.”
I help Ada by handing her a couple of roses, careful to avoid the thorns.
“Who’s in there with him?” I ask.
“No sé. A man in a very expensive suit,” she says. “Muy importante.”
To be a great house detective you have to pick up as many languages as possible. Lucky for me, there are so many different people who work at Crossed Palms. I’m always adding a new word or two to my repertoire. Practice is key.
“Muy importante people always wear suits.”
Ada shakes her head. “You can always tell by the watch. His watch is not on his wrist but tucked in his pocket.” Ada mimes pulling out a pocket watch and flipping it open.
“Fancy. I better go in, then. No time to waste!”
“This is why I like to spend my days with flowers. They only want the simple things: water and sun. A little talking to. Time is not a worry.”
I add another rose to the bouquet. Ada tucks the rose in a bit more. She steps back and admires our work. I join her. The guest who receives this bouquet will surely be happy with such a beautiful display.
“Flowers are pretty great but so is adventure,” I say. “Hasta luego!”
I hesitate before Walter’s door. The decision really boils down to this: Do you knock on the door, alerting those in the room to compose themselves, or do you barge right in, giving them no time to collect themselves? Sometimes a facial expression can tell an entire story. I like the element of surprise. Walt regularly says, “My door is always open,” but I think he’s saying it to the guests, not me. But if there is a guest in need behind this door, I should be right beside him. Sometimes Walter really needs my help.
I grab the knob of the door and swing it wide open.
“Sorry I’m late, Walt. Just finished the case of the missing ring. I’m here now and I’m ready.”
At that very moment, Walt knocks over a glass of water located on his desk. Walt is forever flustered and clumsy, which is an interesting quality for a detective. He’s good at his job. There’s no doubt about that. Walt has taught me everything there is to know about being a detective. The importance of active listening. The importance of note taking. How to question people without seeming too nosy. Not only that, he’s a great friend. He’s always more than willing to help me work things out, even if I can be a little bit of a handful. I know he appreciates me.
“Goldie,” Walt says with a sigh. He digs out a handkerchief from his back pocket and blots out the spill. This gives me more than enough time to study Mr. Muy Importante, who sits across from him.
“Aren’t you the girl who parked my car?” Mr. Muy Importante says. In his hand he holds his watch. He opens and closes the pocket watch as if he marks the time by doing so. His lit cigar rests on a glass ashtray.
“I park cars and I also assist Mr. Tooey here with his house-detective duties. As you can see, this is a rather large property, and it’s all hands on deck. Right, Walt?”
Walter continues to clean up the mess on the table.
“House detective? You?” the man chuckles.
Mr. Very Important is that type of guy. Never underestimate a girl with a pad and pen at the ready. I pull out mine and jot down the inscription on his watch. I can barely make out the letters C and J. The man has got a bit of a squat build and a long, pointy nose, sort of like the actor from the film Casablanca, Humphrey Bogart, minus the quick one-liners that would endear movie audiences.
Praise for Goldie Vance: The Hotel Whodunit:
A 2021 Rainbow Book List Title"Goldie's endless optimism and belief in herself inspire while creating amusing moments in this satisfying gumshoe mystery. Comic book inserts by animator Power further enliven action-packed segments."—Publishers Weekly
- "[...] [S]he [Rivera] shows herself to be skilled at combining noir language conventions with contemporary sensibilities in a way that doesn't feel anachronistic but is just a gas! [...] This biracial, LGBTQ protagonist seamlessly shifts from comics to prose in a winner of a series opener."—Kirkus
- "Readers will love Goldie, an ambitious female lead who challenges gender roles, is gay, and is not to be underestimated. [...] A great purchase for middle grade collections, especially those whose readers are looking for their next boisterous supersleuth."—School Library Journal
- "[T]his middle-grade novel is kind to new series readers, offering a standalone adventure for Goldie and the gang. Goldie is appealing as a headstrong, confident, absurdly good-natured narrator who worms her way into the heart of the surprisingly normal star Lucerne. [...] Rivera unravels the mystery in an enjoyable romp with a large cast of quirky, lovable characters."—BCCB
- "[Goldie's] courage and determination will appeal to young readers who long for a sense of adventure and the desire to be accepted for who they are. Readers will enjoy this smart, independent, and quirky character who isn't afraid to go after what she wants."—School Library Connection
- On Sale
- Mar 17, 2020
- Page Count
- 264 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers