Charlotte Illes’ detective days are behind her. At least, that’s what she keeps telling herself—and anyone who will listen. When she was younger, Charlotte gained fame as Lottie Illes, world-class kid detective. She solved mysteries big and small, nabbing an elementary school crayon thief and helping the British Museum recover a stolen artifact. But Charlotte stopped answering her official detective landline in high school and, at the ripe old age of 25, considers herself officially retired from the mystery-solving business. But then Charlotte’s older brother convinces her to look into some threatening notes his girlfriend received, and Charlotte ends up in the middle of a union-busting scheme, a missing persons case and a murder investigation.
Katie Siegel’s Charlotte Illes Is Not a Detective has a wonderful, engaging premise: What happens when a precocious child detective grows up? How do they figure out who they are when the world only knows them as a wunderkind? Relatable, imperfect, funny and brave, Charlotte is a high point of the novel. She’s witty and eager to improvise but more than a little lost in her personal and professional lives. She’s still grappling with the fame she earned before her high school diploma, and more than anything, she doesn’t want to let anyone down.
Siegel surrounds her titular sleuth with memorable secondary characters, especially Charlotte’s hilarious friends Gabe and Lucy. Siegel’s dialogue is fresh, funny and authentic to her Gen Z characters as the trio takes on the case while also navigating relatable topics such as dating, queerness, job fulfillment, gender identity and the struggle to find reliable roommates. Longtime genre fans may anticipate some of the twists, but the mystery is still thoroughly entertaining. Charlotte Illes is definitely a detective, and a pretty good one, too.