The Picaresque of Ímagine Purple by Beth Fine is an Educational Fiction Mystery Series with teachable moments. The books are Grade Level and Age-Appropriate.
At age nine Ímagine started a Mystery Lovers Club and devoured all the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books set aside at school. By eleven, Ima had munched through most of the Agatha Christi mysteries and began to nibble a bit on the harder Sherlock Holmes stories. Ima’s best friend Riina joined the ranks of mystery lovers too. Together they would act out the stories and then guess whodunit. To solve mysteries grew from a pastime…to a passion.
Sadly, at the end of 6th grade, Ima’s parents moved to Michigan, a place she declared the coldest spot on earth next to Antarctica↑. Except for July 11, the weather gave no customary summer signs. Still, continuing the goal of the Mystery Lovers Club, she loaded up at the local library and started her own summer reading program before a roaring fire. With the nearby lakes full of uninhabitable, water, freezing and not fit for man nor beast, she consoled herself. “With no friends yet, why would I want to go swimming, anyway. Mystery characters will suffice as my companions for this year’s summer reading program.”
Although Ima had outgrown imaginary friends by age three, she still pretended that Agatha Christie↑, an honorary member of the Mystery Lovers Club, came by to read every day. The two mystery lovers agreed to study Sherlock Holmes↑. Without a real live person there, Ima imagined Agatha sitting beside her to read stories like a play. She pretended to let Agatha act the prestigious part of Sherlock; Ima played the bungling one of Dr. Watson. Because to solve mysteries is hard, these two chided each other whenever either chose a claptrap solution like, “the butler did it.” If a story had no cliché butler to blame, they were temporarily stumped. But by a story’s end, they usually figured out “Who done it.”
As much as these mystery lovers liked to solve mysteries together, they also tended to compete on every case. One day, the two got mad at each other. Agatha claimed her solution to a particular mystery was better than Ima’s whimsical reasons and more logical than Sherlock’s theories. Ima told Agatha she had better never say such a thing to Sherlock’s face or he might blow them up in his chemistry lab.
After a few days of reading alone without Agatha’s constant kibbitzing, Ima discovered an veteran investigator’s trick that the police often suspect the first person offering help to solve mysteries. Ima wanted to tell Agatha about her discovery but had second thoughts. In Ima’s mind, Agatha would laugh at the idea, say it was wrong, or claim she’d known that technique for years. Then Ima would have to endure a lecture about how the likely, guilty culprit would give information that looked good but that would prove untrustworthy. Agatha would tell Ima that professional mystery lovers are also competent case busters who keep investigating until they find evidence that constitutes proof in court. They know Mr. Helpful’s information is only a half-truth or a red herring thrown to get a sleuth off track or off the scent of the crime.
This argument brought Ima back from middle school madness to reading reality; Agatha never appeared again. Ima admitted she needed a real-live partner for her summer reading program next year. Meanwhile, she would continue reading mysteries.
Although only twelve, Ima decided to analyze how Sherlock used deduction. She realized he would start with a general theory and gather facts before announcing his conclusion. Agatha Christie, on the other hand, had two main detectives, Hercule Poirot↑ and Jane Marple↑. They both used induction but with different style:
Inspector Poirot induced a crime theory after interviewing characters and finding physical evidence. Next, he set his facts in a logical hierarchy with some clues seeming important; others not quite so. Whereas Poirot’s method appeared more efficient, Miss Marple’s had more artistry.
Marple prodded characters, inducing them to reveal more than they intended. She patiently waited for witnesses to trip up themselves. Some accidentally leaked their motives; others unleashed clues like a tidal wave. After gathering enough information, Marple simply laid out a surprise theory of the crime and made the involved parties squirm or confess. Soon after, the police would simply arrive to mop up remaining puddles and make an arrest.
Ima took inspiration from these storybook sleuths and began to develop her own system of logic called reduction, not the same type of reduction as in doing fractions or making gravy. Her reduction method allowed her to reduce the number of odd details she collected and then distill a few to see which were mere details, which were facts but maybe not leads, and which were real clues. Then she would take a clue, shaje it wildly, turn it upside down, pull it inside out, throw it against the wall, let it fall to the floor, before stomping on it to see if it would squirt out any secrets. These antics of her method puzzled onlookers. It lacked something. Ima excelled in collecting details but wobbled in finding conclusions.
Read the educational fiction books of The Picaresque of Ímagine Purple series to find out how Ima continues learning to solve mysteries and applies what she learns.