As far as Sammy Keyes books go, this one ranks pretty high on my list. It has one of the best overall mysteries, and unintentionally relaunches the series (more on that later). This one effects the series so much, in fact, that if I were to recommend any book other than Hotel Thief as the first book to read in the series, I would probably suggest this one.
Sammy, Marissa, Holly & Dot are hanging out at Dot’s new house way out in Sisquane to ring in the New Year. While helping Dot’s father deliver flowers, they encounter Lucinda Huntley, her giant pig and a decades-old feud. There is lots of bad blood between people this book, including with Heather, who the girls encounter at an out-of-control New Years party. And, last but not least, this is the book that introduces Casey.
Like I said before, I love the mystery in this one. It introduces a fascinating Western-era feud, and the end of this book involves an intense drug bust. Penny the Pig is a fun character. It also features an understanding Officer Borsch; though Sammy still thinks he is the worst, it is clear he no longer thinks the same about her. We also get Marissa with a backbone, which is great considering she is often the easiest person for the central/supporting cast of the series to take advantage of.
The real draw for most fans about this book, however, is the introduction of Casey. As I mentioned in my “The Return” blog post, I did not read this series in order. I started the series with Art of Deception. I therefore knew Casey long before I read Curse of Moustache Mary. And I noticed something weird. Casey seems a little different in this book. Not so much that I didn’t like him, or his introduction. I definitely did. Him feeling “off” had me wondering for a long time if his introduction to the series was originally meant to be a one time appearance. Here are the observations:
- Casey doesn’t appear in the next book at all. He isn’t even mentioned. And he does appear in the book after that, but his role is miniscule.
- In this book, Casey is best friends with Taylor and Jake, two bad-influence tweens. Casey is a bit of a bad influence himself, and more understanding of his sister. When he gets his next prominent appearance, he is better friends with Billy Pratt and Danny Urbanski. And is no longer a potential “bad’ influence himself.
- The Casey x Sammy plot for Curse of Moustache Mary is a perfect parallel to a relationship from Lucinda’s past. It isn’t uncommon for Wendelin to introduce characters for the soul purpose of having a plot parallel. It previously happens in Skeleton Man when Sammy x Cece (the thrift shop owner) clash the same way Hudson did with the bookstore owner.
After years of wondering, I finally found my answer online. I was right! Though I can’t say for sure my observations are all accurate, they led to the correct conclusion. Casey was meant to be a one and done book appearance.
As most fans would be quick to say, aren’t we lucky we persuaded Wendelin to let him stay?
Per my comment about relaunching this series, this is an affect of Casey’s introduction. As a romantic interest and overall great friend of Sammy’s, Casey plays a big role in the rest of the series. If Wendelin had left him out, what would have happened? How much did the series change because Casey became involved? Only Wendelin can answer that.