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  • The Trap
  • Written by Joan Lowery Nixon
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780307820457
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The Trap

Written by Joan Lowery NixonAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Joan Lowery Nixon


List Price: $6.99


On Sale: October 31, 2012
Pages: 176 | ISBN: 978-0-307-82045-7
Published by : Delacorte Books for Young Readers RH Childrens Books
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Julie resents being sent to spend the summer with her great aunt and uncle on their ranch in Texas, Rancho del Oro. Her swim team needs her and she’ll be away for the whole summer season. But her family
is counting on her, too. Uncle Gabe has broken his ankle and Aunt Glenda needs help. Julie is the only one available. Maybe she’ll surprise herself and actually have a good time.

But something strange is going on at Rancho del Oro. Pieces of jewelry and little objects are missing. The older people on the ranch say they may have misplaced the items–but something doesn’t add up. In addition, two ranch residents have recently died. The deaths have been ruled accidents, but were they? When she discovers Uncle Gabe’s fall was not an accident, Julie knows she must discover the killer’s identity. Or else she could be next.


Chapter One

I HAD NEVER BEEN ON A ROAD SO DARK AND LONELY. THE car's headlights drilled through a deep tunnel, illuminating only the pavement ahead. Trees and scrub that lined the roadside shifted into grotesque black shapes, looming, hovering, then disappearing into the night.

My father's aunt, Glenda Hollister, leaned forward, gripping the steering wheel. Without taking her gaze from the road, she said, "I didn't think to tell your father that I've got a bit of night blindness."

I stiffened in my seat. "You can't see where you're going?"

"Oh, it's not that bad," she scoffed, but she squinted, straining to see ahead, so I didn't believe her and stared at the road myself, as if there were something I could do.

"I just meant that it would have been easier if your plane had come in during the day," she added. "At best, Rancho del Oro is a good two-hour drive from the San Antonio airport."

We were spotlighted in a sudden yellow glare as a car came up behind us, then zipped past. For the first time I was glad that Aunt Glenda wasn't driving very fast, because she swerved, bumping along the gravel edges of the road, then steered back into the right lane. "I have a license. Why don't I drive?" I asked.

"It's sweet of you to offer, Julie," she said, "but you don't know the way. Now that we've passed Kerrville, the entrance to the ranch isn't far, and finding it is tricky."

She suddenly hit the brakes, and I braced myself against the dashboard. My heart pounding, I managed to gasp, "What happened?"

"This darned entrance," Aunt Glenda snapped. "I almost missed it myself." Without even a glance into the rearview mirror, she backed up about twenty feet, then swung out in a wide arc to face a barred gate that was fastened between two brick pillars, set back within a grove of mesquite trees. Over the gate was a rustic, dimly lit arch with the words rancho del oro burned into the wood. Beyond lay an even narrower road, fading into a dark hole. Aunt Glenda pressed a button on a device that was fastened to the sun shield on the driver's side, and the gates opened, slowly and silently swinging apart.

"Almost home," she said wearily as the car bumped and shuddered over the boards of a cattle guard. "We're on El Camino Vista. It's a little winding, but it will take us right up the hill to our house."

I tried to see what we were passing, but I couldn't. There was a heavy cloud cover, and it was much too dark. "Where are the streetlights?" I asked.

She gave me a quick look. "You're a city girl, Julie. There are no streetlights on Texas ranches."

I couldn't help shivering. Barred gates, a night as black as a puddle of tar spread over a pothole, not a streetlight in sight--what in the world was I doing here?

Yesterday my father had said in his firmest voice, "We're counting on you, Julie. You're the only one who can help."

As he spoke Mom kept nodding, which flipped the turned-up ends of her short, dark brown hair, cut so much like mine. I know she was trying to emphasize the importance of what Dad was saying, but I wasn't in the mood to hear their point of view. And it didn't help that my younger sister and brothers, Bitsy, Hayden, and Trevor, were watching from the doorway--Trevor with a big grin on his face. I was furious. "You're telling me I have to give up the swim team?"

"It's not that we don't think the swim team is important," Mom said. Then her cheeks grew pink and I knew she was embarrassed as she added, "I mean, you don't have Olympic goals or great plans like that. It's just a swim team, so we all feel it's expendable, Julie. I hope you understand."

"The swim team is more important than you think," I told her. I tried not to ruin my argument with tears, and it was difficult to do. "Everyone on our team has worked hard, and this year, for the first time, we have a chance to make the Interstate Sweepstakes!"

"Please be reasonable." Mom was not quite begging. "I'm working on one of the biggest legal cases of my entire career. And your father has promised to lead that six-week seminar at UCLA. There's no way either of us can spend the summer with Aunt Glenda and Uncle Gabe."

I tried to keep my temper. I was not only angry, I was hurt because they didn't think what I wanted to do was important. "Why me?" I demanded of Dad. "Why should I spend the whole summer with your aunt and uncle? I hardly know them. I haven't seen them since they came to your family reunion four years ago. Why can't your brothers or your sister go?"

Dad shook his head, then stared down at his toes. I couldn't help noticing how the little bald spot on top of his head reflected the lamplight, and for just an instant I felt a strange jolt of sorrow, as if part of Dad were slowly slipping away.

"We discussed this problem thoroughly," he explained. "Ellen's going to be a grandmother any day now and has to be on hand to help Shelley with her twins. George and Samantha are leaving in two days for Europe, chaperoning George's high school choral group. And Richard is recovering from bypass surgery." He let out a long breath and went on. "It's just awful timing for everyone. So no arguments, Julie. The family thought it over and made the only decision we could make. You're the one family member who's available to stay with Aunt Glenda and help out when Uncle Gabe gets released from the hospital."

"Couldn't they get a nurse? She'd be more help to someone with a broken ankle than I would. It's not life or death. It's just an ankle!"

"Aunt Glenda wanted someone in the family to come," Dad explained. "As a matter of fact, she insisted on family. When I spoke to her, she actually sounded a little shaken, a little frightened. She needs someone she can count on, not a stranger."

I was beginning to hate the word family! With Dad and his brothers and sisters, family was all-important. I was sick of too many family dinners and picnics and gossip and opinions and nobody minding their own business. The family had decided that my summer plans were the least important, so I was stuck with having to do a job none of them probably wanted.

"Why couldn't Uncle Gabe have been careful? Why'd he have to fall down the stairs and break his ankle?" I muttered to myself.

But Mom heard. "It's just lucky that's all that happened," she said. "Glenda was thankful that he hadn't been killed." She turned to my father. "Michael, why don't you go onto the Internet and buy Julie's ticket, and I'll help her get ready to pack."

It wasn't my choice. I didn't even have a vote in what was happening to my life. I had only one day to resign from the swim team, tell my best friend, Robin Norwich, that I'd keep in touch by e-mail, wash everything in my closet that Mom thought ought to be washed, and pack.

Aunt Glenda wasn't kidding when she said the road was winding. I clung to the armrest on the door and tried to brace myself against the swerves and bumps. I could tell we were climbing higher and higher. At one point the car dipped and we drove through shallow water. I could hear it splashing against the underside.

"That's our creek," Aunt Glenda said. "It's usually not even ankle deep, except after a big rain, when it's swollen. Then no one can drive in or out."
Joan Lowery Nixon

About Joan Lowery Nixon

Joan Lowery Nixon - The Trap

Photo © Gittings

“In every story I write I give a great deal of thought to the main character, because the story is his, or hers. The direction of the story is determined by the main character’s ambitions and reactions. The main character is the one to whom the readers will relate.”—Joan Lowery Nixon

Joan Lowery Nixon is the only four-time winner of the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe Award and a two-time winner of the California Young Reader Medal.


Whether it’s engrossing historical dramas, chilling mysteries, suspense-filled page-turners, or adventure stories, kids, teachers, and librarians love the books of Joan Lowery Nixon.

Nixon is half Californian, half Texan. She has a degree in journalism and credentials in elementary education. Nixon has written over 130 books for children from preschool age through young adult—including science books, co-authored with her husband, geologist Hershell Nixon. Her books have garnered numerous awards and accolades, including the Western Writers of America Golden Spur Award for Best Western Juvenile and the Texas Institute of Letters Award. Many of Nixon’s books have won state children’s choice awards. She is the only four-time winner of the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Juvenile Mystery. Nixon has four children and several grandchildren.

Nixon describes the pleasure she gets from writing mystery and suspense: “When I was young I discovered an evening radio program called I Love a Mystery. It was intriguing, suspenseful, and at times absolutely terrifying, and the title was correct. I did love a mystery—on radio, in films, and especially in books. Maybe I’m really a detective at heart because much later in my life, when I began to write books for young people, I discovered writing mysteries was even more fun than reading them.

“A mystery begins to develop in my mind when something sparks an idea and a question grows from it. What would it be like to move into a house in which a murder had taken place? How would I feel if my best friend were arrested for murder on circumstantial evidence? As a question develops into an answer, I give a great deal of thought to my main character. She is the most important part of the story, and I see it take shape through her eyes. Before I write a word of the story I know how I’ll begin it and how I’ll end it, making sure to put in honest clues and distracting red herrings—just to make the mystery all the more fun to solve. I love mysteries, and I want my readers to love them, too.”

In creating the acclaimed Orphan Train Adventures, Nixon explored a time and place in America’s recent past that is not widely covered in history lessons. She explains, “It was a part of history I hadn’t known: that beginning in 1854, over 100,000 homeless children were rescued from the streets of New York City and sent by train to new homes in the West. As I researched early journals, I found many letters—some hopeful, some sad—and reports which told of tears as brothers and sisters were separated or a child was not chosen. I wanted to bring history and fiction together in an exciting, adventurous time and place, to tell the stories of those who could have traveled west on the Orphan Train.”

Many of Nixon’s readers have written to her asking how to get published. Her novel The Making of a Writer, a part memoir, part how-to book, is her answer to them. From her first publication at age 10—a poem titled “Springtime”—to her graduation from Hollywood High during World War II, Nixon shares the incidents from her childhood that helped her to develop as a writer.


“A fast-moving, entertaining mystery with an intelligent and spunky heroine.”—Booklist

“Another solid Nixon mystery without too much violence and lots of suspense.”—Booklist

“Another successful page-turner. . . . Reluctant readers and mystery lovers alike will welcome a trip to this mansion.”—School Library Journal

“Thrilling . . . a riveting tale of suspense set against a background of fascinating historical context brought up to date through e-mail and the Internet.”—School Library Journal

“Enriched with family troubles, guilty secrets, and a whiff of the supernatural, this page-turner will please the legions of Nixon fans.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Masterfully constructed. . . . Ingeniously plotted, fast-paced and lighthearted, this mystery manages to blend an engrossing double murder brainteaser with the blossoming of a self-conscious teen into a self-assured young woman.”—Publishers Weekly

“Nixon’s reputation as the grande dame of mysteries for young readers remains solidly intact with this thriller . . . a topnotch choice.”—Starred, School Library Journal


“As close to perfect a book. . . . The plot is rational and well-paced; the characters are real and believable; the time setting is important in U.S. history; and the values all that anyone can ask for.”—VOYA

“This exciting and touching novel projects an aura of historical reality.”—School Library Journal


“There is suspense, surprise, and heartfelt emotion, and there is a useful historical note at the end.”—Booklist


“The novel certainly will be in demand from her regular readers.”—VOYA, Starred

“Suspenseful and well-crafted.”—Booklist

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