Young Adult Mystery Review

Dead Ball Foul
By Kayla McGrady
Silver Dagger Mystery Young Reader Edition, 2000
ISBN: 1-57072-117-3 (hardback), 1-57072-133-5 (paperback)

The term “dead ball foul” come from football when there is a false start before the ball is in play.  Football is key to the mystery McGrady weaves with a number of suspects capable of murdering the referee.   Like a modern day Nancy Drew, Tricia Lakely gathers her own facts and evidence when it becomes apparent that the police investigation will stop with the owner of the murder weapon.  Tricia knows football star Aaron is not a murderer and is driven to solve the death of her friend Paul the referee. 

Tricia’s Spanish class partner Luke becomes her companion in the investigation, and a romance blooms between the two of them.  Aaron and his best friend Joe also play roles as lookouts and informers for the student investigation.   

The possible theories Tricia must work through offer a range of complexity that keeps the novel interesting.  Did Aaron kill the ref for a bad call when college scouts were watching him?  Did Coach Jones kill the ref for a bad call costing him the game as college scouts watched to the coach for a college position?  Did local loan shark Roscoe Thompson have Paul killed for an outstanding debt? 

Another interesting twist is the growing relationship between her widowed mother and the new neighbor with a fake British accent.   

Dead Ball Foul is the debut novel from Kayla McGrady, a Virginia high school senior.   She has written an action-packed adventure with chase scenes that will have the reader on edge.  Like most normal teenagers feel, McGrady’s novel makes the adults seem slightly dumber than the teenagers; but both groups work together in the end.  There is a sweet wholesome element to the novel as Tricia is offended by foul language and at times battles her own desire to cuss in stressful moments.  I suspect we’ll be hearing more from Kayla McGrady.

Joyce Dixon
Southern Scribe Reviews
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