An attic can hold many secrets, including the letters 12-year-old Colin finds in a stranger’s house. It’s his summer job helping Mom in her business of helping people get rid of junk. Should he throw them away? Maybe not.

Upon reading a few of the letters, Colin finds a back and forth exchange between two best friends, Rosemary and Toby. His first look convinces Colin he must keep the letters and find out why these two stopped being friends way back in the 1970s.

An engaging story becomes even better by adding another character. Here we have Nevaeh who lives in the same town. She also finds a letter, but this one sounds like a confession to a crime. Her dad is the “Junk King” given he is in the junk hauling business. He thinks the guilty party is Colin’s Mom.

The letters eventually lead to the friendship of Nevaeh and Colin. As more clues unfold, the letters are found to be connected in unexpected ways. Together they try and solve the mystery, hopefully somehow tracking down Rosemary and Toby who might have answers.

Two modern day kids trying to make sense of the 70s made this one of my favorite reads this year. The focus on treatment of women in the last century will be eye opening for young readers.

The fast paced read alternates between Colin and Neveah’s third person narration. This first story in the MYSTERIES OF TRASH & TREASURE series will leave you anxious to see what comes next.


  1. The small town of Groveview, Ohio provides the perfect setting for this engaging plot. It works so much better than having the setting be a large city. Neighborhoods and family are front and center.
  2. I finish reading some mysteries and although they are well written, the likelihood of the event happening is slim. With The Secret Letters I was in all the way and found it very believable.
  3. If you lived in the 1970s, you’ll get a nostalgic feel for the era. Others will learn about such things as Pong, the Bicentenial Quarter, and many 70s television shows. The author has a great summary of all the highlights covered in the story in her back pages notes.
  4. The anxiety Nevaeh and Colin bring forth is about family and friendship. It’s one that will resonate with readers.
  5. The two families are quite different, but you come away knowing that there is compassion and love coming from each.


Margaret Peterson Haddix grew up on a farm near Washington Court House, Ohio. She graduated from Miami University (of Ohio) with degrees in English/journalism, English/creative writing and history. Before her first book was published, she worked as a newspaper copy editor in Fort Wayne, Indiana; a newspaper reporter in Indianapolis; and a community college instructor and freelance writer in Danville, Illinois.

She has since written more than 40 books for kids and teens, including Running Out of TimeDouble Identity; Uprising; The Always War; the Greystone Secrets series; the Shadow Children series; the Missing series; the Children of Exile series; the Under Their Skin duologyand The Palace Chronicles. She also wrote Into the Gauntlet, the tenth book in the 39 Clues series.  Her books have been honored with New York Times bestseller status, the International Reading Association’s Children’s Book Award; American Library Association Best Book and Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers notations; and numerous state reader’s choice awards. They have also been translated into more than twenty different languages.

Haddix and her husband, Doug, now live in Columbus, Ohio. They are the parents of two grown kids.

(For more about her books and events, Visit Margaret’s Author web page)


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About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...always striving to reach the next peak in my life and career.
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  1. I love that this is a mystery that makes sense to you. I love books about the 1970s. I’ll definitely keep my eyes open for this one. Thanks.

  2. How can you not give us more. I love mysteries and I’m curious about this one. Didn’t realize I had so much in common with Margaret Peterson Haddix. She grew up close to where I live. And the 70s were very good times for me — that’s when women had more job opportunities and I was sailing. Started out as a newspaper reporter before working for the Ohio Senate. For me it was the time where women had choices. Bothers me that period is referred to so historically — yesterday for me. 🙂

  3. I am intrigued as to why a 12 year old boy would start reading old letters he found in the attic, and I also like the device of a mystery set around letters from an unknown person (or persons!). Sounds good! Thanks for sharing!

  4. msyingling says:

    I loved this one so much that I bought a copy for myself, which I RARELY do. I’m with Patricia that there seemed like there was so much more opportunity for women. Haddix lives fairly close to where I do, but I’ve not yet met her. Maybe soon!

  5. oooh – this looks really fun! And having a hard time coming to grips with the 70s as “historical fiction”…

  6. This sounds like a terrific mystery. I’m putting it high on my TBR list. Thanks for your review.

  7. Janet Smart says:

    “Way back in the 1970s’ makes me feel old. Sounds like a very good book that I would love to read. Thanks for telling us about it.

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