It seems weird that three of the first four books are holiday-focused…but I guess that is fall, isn’t it? You start school, then bam–Halloween! Then Thanksgiving. Then Christmas! All students think of the first semester in terms of holiday milestones.
Also, in case you haven’t already realized, the Sammy Keyes blog posts will have spoilers! The series ended several years ago, so I think the time for “spoiler alerts!” has gone.
In Sammy Keyes and the Sisters of Mercy, Sammy is working volunteer hours at the local church in lieu of attending detention for several weeks. (This is the follow-up punishment for her Heather showdown in Sammy Keyes and the Skeleton Man.) In the subplot we have my favorite character introduction of the series, and the inspiration for the Sammy Keyes spin-off book Runaway. Yes, that’s right–this is the one where we meet Holly.
In Sammy Keyes and the Runaway Elf, we have one of the weirder series mysteries. Sammy loses a dog on a Christmas parade float, and in turn is blackmailed by a Santa Martina big-wig that we (as far as I can remember) never read about in any of the other books. In other news, Sammy weirds out Heather, Sammy and Borsch begin to bond and Sammy becomes friends with an elf-like child she finds when looking for the runaway dog. And we see the last of Mrs. Graybill, a regular side-character from the beginning of the series.
It’s hard to talk about Sisters of Mercy without spending most of my time discussing Holly. The introduction of Holly was one of the first hard-hitting serious plots. For those who have yet to read a Sammy Keyes book, Sammy meets Holly while volunteering at the church soup kitchen. Holly is a homeless teen, a foster kid on the run. After a few run ins, Sammy is able to find Holly a permanent home. It’s such a cool story I can’t give it justice by describing it. The rest of the plot pales in comparison. Some of the missing mit subplot is interesting, and the crazy nun chase at the end leads to one of the first “nice” Borsch moments. But really, this book’s purpose is to introduce Holly. Plus it leads to an amazing spin-off book that, if it were an “official” Sammy Keyes book, would rank high in my series ranking.
Like I said earlier, Runaway Elf is a weird book. As far as general Sammy Keyes canon goes, it is out of place. The Heather conflict isn’t as pivotal for the series as it was in the first three books. And some things change for Sammy, with Mrs. Graybill and Officer Borsch, that make it odd that the plot of this book isn’t mentioned much in future books. A lot of important stuff happens, but it is downplayed! Weirdness aside, this book manages to pull more emotional punches then most. Sammy and Elyssa have a sweet relationship. Mrs. Graybill’s fate brings out a lot of tears. I also love that Cassie, a minor character introduction, reappears later in the series.
But really, the most important aspect of these books is the world-building. Once you get through Runaway Elf, the series hits the ground running. Everything happens. And it’s a non-stop thrill ride from here and onward.