“Hard-boiled narrator Claude’s world is diverse, bright, and textured, reflecting the best parts of Brooklyn’s distinctive charm. Her sharp observations and quick tongue are balanced by her emotional fogginess and the struggles of young adolescence… Sharp, fun, and optimistic, the novel will have readers rooting for Claude until the end. ” 

-Kirkus Reviews

“The humor, quirky characters, and contemporary New York setting, combined with the gangster lore, make this ideal for middle grade readers who enjoy slightly naughty characters with hearts of gold. VERDICT: A unique offering with an atypical protagonist; recommended for kids who like mysteries and crime-solving.” 

–School Library Journal

“In her pursuit of the truth, Claude reclaims faltering relationships with family and friends and solves a darn good little mystery into the bargain.” 

–Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“…multiracial Claude heads up a diverse cast of well-formed characters, and the exploration of friendship and family relations is worthwhile. For readers looking for a tough-talking, independent heroine with detective aspirations, this debut is a treat.” 


Claudeline Feng LeBernardin is very good at being bad. Her Grandpa Si was a real-life gangster, and Claude always thought she’d take over the family business when he was gone. Instead, Claude’s dad is in charge—and she’s sure he’s running things into the ground. She wants to step in, but her parents are keeping secrets and her partner in crime, Fingerless Brett, is suddenly on the straight and narrow.

Then, when a very strange character by the name of Alma Lingonberry shows up in the neighborhood, Claude gets closer to the crime life than ever. Before long, she’s swept up in a maddening mystery that’s got her wondering: What does it really mean to be bad?

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers | 304 pages | ISBN 9781481435819 | September 2016 | Grades 3 – 7

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