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About The Book

From Edgar Award–nominated author Martha Freeman comes a “delightful” (Kirkus Reviews) middle grade mystery following a young boy working at his family’s secondhand store that is a steal-your-heart story about family and friendship.

Arthur Popper helps out in his family’s Boulder, Colorado, junk store, Universal Trash, a place so full of cool stuff it inspires awe in first-time shoppers. When it comes to ukuleles, peppermills, and rhinestones, Arthur knows what’s what. But unlike his motorcycle-riding grandma and his namesake, King Arthur, he’s not brave or adventurous.

Then Arthur finds a chipped teacup, of all things, and realizes it’s the key to solving the perfect crime—a crime only he knows about.

With help from a supernatural sidekick, his best friend, his annoying little sister, and a sad-faced police officer, Arthur embarks on the hard work of detecting. Everyone knows Arthur is good at customer service. Does he have what it takes to solve a mystery and confront a thief?


Ramona’s mouse died suddenly.

Friday night it had been scrabbling around the sawdust in its cage, whiskers twitching, eyes bright.

Saturday morning it was paws-up, eyes shut.

“Rigor mortis,” said Arthur. He had heard those words in a movie and wanted to test them out.

“Okay, and it’s a girl, and why did she die?” Ramona Popper was six. She didn’t know what “rigor mortis” meant, but she would never ask her brother. She figured he was showing off, which he was.

Arthur Popper was eleven. He and his sister mostly ignored each other. But Ramona had gone to him when she’d found her mouse. Now they were standing in Ramona’s bedroom, which was in the back of the family’s apartment. Through the window was a view of hills, the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. Arthur’s room was on the other side and looked out on the street, cars going by.

“Do you know if the mouse was old?” Arthur asked.

Ramona wiped her nose with the back of her hand and sniffled. They were standing by the mouse’s cage, which rested on a table by the window. The mouse didn’t look peaceful exactly. The poor thing looked uncomfortable.

Ramona and Arthur were still wearing their pajamas, Ramona’s blue with tiny red triangle trees, Arthur’s red with a big green Grinch on the shirt—Christmas pajamas in April. Like a lot of Arthur’s and Ramona’s clothes, the pajamas had come from the store, which always had a good supply of kids’ Christmas pajamas—worn once, outgrown by the next year.

Ramona didn’t know if her mouse had been old.

Arthur could think of things besides old age that might kill a mouse. Things like germs and viruses and cancer. But Ramona was only in first grade. She didn’t need to hear such bad stuff yet.

Arthur was not the best big brother, but he wasn’t totally heartless.

“Should we bury her?” Ramona asked.

“Yes,” Arthur said. “For a fact, I think we should have a funeral.”

Ramona widened her eyes. “I’ve never been to a funeral before,” she said.

Arthur hadn’t either, but he’d seen them in movies. Organizing a funeral couldn’t be that hard. Besides, Ramona wouldn’t know if he got it wrong.

“The service will be at one o’clock,” he announced. “After breakfast you can find a coffin—a box to bury the mouse in.”

“I know what a coffin is, Arthur,” Ramona said.

Arthur didn’t have to say where Ramona would find a coffin. They both knew there would be a box in the store. That was a good thing about having the store downstairs. When you needed something, you could usually find it.

Arthur and Ramona ate cereal for breakfast at the big table in the kitchen. Even though it was Saturday, their mom, a lawyer, had gone to work to catch up. She had to do that a lot. Arthur pictured being a lawyer as one big race, with their mom a few steps behind.

As for Dad, the store didn’t open till ten, but some rich Boulder citizen had died the week before, and Dad was downstairs sorting possessions the man’s family didn’t want. The next day, Sunday, Arthur and his best friend, Veda Lopez, would probably be assigned to help.

After she ate, Ramona went downstairs to find something she could use for a mouse coffin, and Arthur went back to his bedroom, where the cars outside—swoosh, swoosh, swoosh—made a soothing soundtrack.

About The Author

Photo courtesy of the author

Martha Freeman worked as a reporter and teacher before becoming a full-time writer of books for young readers, including the Edgar Award–nominated Zap!Born Curious, The Secret Cookie Club series, Who Stole Halloween?, and Effie Starr Zook Has One More Question, which School Library Journal called “accessible and exciting” in a starred review. She also collaborated with NASA astronaut Mark Kelly on the Astrotwins books. Martha lives in Oregon. Learn more at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books (January 17, 2023)
  • Length: 304 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781665905350
  • Grades: 3 - 7
  • Ages: 8 - 12
  • Lexile ® 650L The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®

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Raves and Reviews

"A delightful mystery that will lure in young sleuths."


"A fast, fun read with a great setting, recommended for young mystery readers."


"A fun mystery adventure with small openings for important conversations about racism and more."

School Library Journal

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