Rising sixth grader Mo (short for Moses–yes, the Biblical one) LoBeau counts herself three times lucky. Once, when her Upstream Mother put baby Mo on a raft so she could float towards safety during “the meanest hurricanes in history.” Twice, when the Colonel found her and scooped her from the rising creek. Three times, when Miss Lana decided to keep baby Mo and raise her as her own.
For eleven years, Mo’s lived in Tupelo Landing, a predictably quirky (predictable for Mo, quirky for us) town with exactly two streets. She’s got her best friend, Dale, and a Sworn Enemy for Life, Anna Celeste. Her parental figures, the Colonel and Miss Lana, are crazy about each other, but they also drive each other crazy. Together, the three of them (Dale helps, sometimes) run a cafe that doubles as the town center. All the patrons know about Mo’s search for her Upstream Mother and they help by pitching Mo’s message-in-a-bottles into the river whenever they travel upstream of Tupelo. So far, Mo hasn’t heard cracked her own missing persons case yet, but she reckons, “if water took me away from her, water can bring us back together.”
Mo’s next mystery comes in the form of Mr. Jesse’s unexpected murder. Worse, Dale is the last person seen at Mr. Jesse’s and a big city detective comes poking around Tupelo and picking on the Colonel. (I should mention the Colonel’s past is shrouded in mystery; he lost his memory during the big storm the night he found Mo). To get Detective Starr off the Colonel’s back, Mo decides to put her natural investigative skills, honed from years of searching for her Upstream Mother, to good use and solve Mr. Jesse’s murder herself. When Miss Lana and then the Colonel go missing, the plot twists and thickens. Everything culminates one dark and stormy night when Mo solves the two biggest cases of her life during the second biggest hurricane of her life, though not in a way she or we expect!
As a reader, I had a rollicking good time reading about Mo’s eventful summer, especially how she interacts with all her Tupelo neighbors. I’m not usually a fan of first person POV, but author Sheila Turnage gives Mo a narrative voice that’s one-of-a-kind: colorful, smart, frank, and funny. For example, when Mo tells Dale’s mom what happened to Dale’s older brother at the racetrack instead of letting Dale do it, because she’s afraid he won’t break the news gently:
Miss Rose, I hate to mention it, but your firstborn’s crashed headfirst into a cement wall at maybe a hundred miles an hour, which we can all be grateful hard-headedness runs in your family. He’s outside right now hoping his daddy will let him in without any nastiness, and we’re hoping he don’t get medically no worse, because Doc Aikin says if he goes concussion, we got to rush him to the hospital.
While I’d like more of Mo, unlike The Higher Power of Lucky (which could be a companion book), Three Times Lucky’s conclusion seems to occlude the possibility of sequels. Luckily, Turnage gives Mo such a solid presence, it’s easy to envision more adventures and mysteries for Mo and Dale to tackle.