“‘I can solve it!’ Barry Blake says at the start of each book. ‘I can solve any mystery.’ He’s so smart,” Cam Jansen told her mother. “He’s strong, too. He once lifted the front of a truck just to find a clue.”
“Yes,” Mrs. Jansen said. “But do you remember what else he always says? ‘I can solve any mystery and be home in time to help Mom with dinner.’ He’s a very good son.”
It was a cold, rainy December night. Cam and her mother were on their way to school. It was the night of the yearly book fair. Jim E. Winter, the author of Cam’s favorite books, the My Name Is Blake Mysteries, would be there.
“It’s so difficult to drive in this weather,” Mrs. Jansen said, and leaned forward. “With all this rain and the cold, it’s hard to see out. The car windows are all fogged up.”
Cam’s mother was stopped at a traffic light. She took a tissue and wiped the inside of the front window.
“Did you ever see a picture of Jim E. Winter?” she asked Cam.
“Yes. There’s one on the back of each of his books.”
“I bet there’s no fog on your memory,” Mrs. Jansen said. “Tell me what he looks like.”
Cam closed her eyes. She said, “Click!” Then Cam said, “I’m looking at a picture of Jim E. Winter. He’s really young. He has a dark bushy mustache and lots of dark wavy hair.”
The light changed to green.
Mrs. Jansen drove slowly.
Cam said, “In the picture he’s wearing a polka-dotted bow tie and a striped shirt.”
Cam has what people call a photographic memory. She remembers just about everything she’s seen. It’s as if she has a camera and a file of pictures in her head.
Cam said, “Click!” again.
“On the cover beneath the picture,” Cam said with her eyes still closed, “is lots of information. It says, ‘Jim E. Winter was once a police detective. He’s written more than one hundred books. He lives near a forest and has a dog named Jake.’”
When Cam wants to remember something she’s seen, she closes her eyes and says, “Click!” Cam says it’s the sound her mental camera makes.
Cam’s real name is Jennifer, but when people found out about her amazing memory, they called her “The Camera.” Soon “The Camera” became just “Cam.”
Mrs. Jansen was just about to turn onto the school’s front drive. “We’re finally here!” Mrs. Jansen said. “And I’m glad. It’s not easy driving in this rain.”
Cam opened her eyes.
“Mom! Be careful!” Cam said. “Someone is walking just ahead.”
Mrs. Jansen stepped on the car’s brakes. She waited for the man to cross the road. Then she drove past the front of the school to the side parking lot.
“Button your coat,” Mrs. Jansen told Cam when she stopped the car. “Put on your rain hat.”
Mrs. Jansen took an umbrella from the backseat. She opened it. Then she and Cam hurried into the school.
There was a large mat by the door. Cam and her mother wiped their shoes.
A sign directed them to hang their coats in room 17. Mrs. Jansen closed her umbrella. She and Cam hung their coats, hats, and umbrella in room 17.
Beth Kane and her father were in the room, too.
“Hi, Cam,” Beth said.
“Hello,” Beth’s father said, and shook Cam’s hand. “It’s nice to see you again.”
Cam smiled. “Thanks.”
Mr. Kane shook Mrs. Jansen’s hand.
“Your daughter is amazing,” he said. “You must be so proud of her.”
Mrs. Jansen smiled. “And Cam has told me how nice and smart Beth is.”
Then, as they were about to leave room 17, Danny and his parents entered the school.
“Hey, there’s Cam Jansen,” Danny told his parents. “She’s the clicking girl. And there’s Beth. She’s the girl who never likes my jokes.”
Beth told Danny, “No one likes your jokes.”
“Hey,” Danny’s father said. “I’m Mr. Pace, and you’ll like my jokes. Here’s one: What do you get from nervous hens?”
“I know that one,” Danny said, and laughed. “The answer is ‘scrambled eggs.’” Then Danny asked his father, “Do you know Snow White’s father’s name? It’s Egg White. Now the yolk is on you, Dad. Do you get it? The yolk is on you.”
“That’s enough jokes,” Danny’s mother said. “Let’s just hang up our coats.”
“Wow,” Beth said as she, Cam, and their parents walked into the hall. “Danny’s father tells bad jokes, too.”
“Welcome,” Dr. Prell, the school’s principal, said. “We have books for everyone. The book fair is in the gym.”
The doors to the gym were open. Cam, Beth, and their parents went in. They stood there for a moment and looked at the many tables. On each was a pile of books and a sign so people would know what kind of books were on the table.
“I’m looking for history books,” Mrs. Jansen told Cam. “You can look by yourself, but please don’t leave this room.”
“I want to meet Jim E. Winter,” Cam said.
Beth said, “Me, too. I love his mysteries.”
“Stay with Cam,” Mr. Kane told his daughter. “I’m going to look at the biographies.”
Children and their parents were looking at books. There were small children, too, running between and under the tables.
“There he is,” Beth said, and pointed. “He’s in the back of the gym, right by the wall.”
Cam looked across the gym. An old bald man with a white bushy mustache was sitting by a table at the far end of the gym. A long line of children were waiting for him to sign their books.
“That man is bald! That can’t be Jim E. Winter,” Cam said. “I saw a picture of him with dark, wavy hair and a dark mustache.”
Beth said, “You must have looked at an old picture of him.”
“Yes,” Cam said. “It must have been a very old picture.”
Cam looked at the many people waiting to meet Jim E. Winter. Each had a My Name Is Blake Mystery for him to sign.
“Well,” Cam said, “I don’t care what he looks like. I don’t care how old he is. I just want to meet him.”
Copyright © 2007 by David A. Adler. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.