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Tangled Up in Mayhem

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About The Book

“Sleuths skillfully, satisfyingly solve silly roller-coaster shenanigans.” —Kirkus Reviews

Sloane and Amelia’s investigation at an amusement park quickly turns ominous when they come up against a cohort of villains determined to stop them in this third book in the Tangled Mysteries middle grade series perfect for fans of The Book Scavenger and Lemons.

Sloane and Amelia’s amateur detective agency has landed their first paid gig! After seeing their YouTube documentary series, eccentric millionaire Covington Cooley hires them to solve a mystery: the secret location of a time capsule buried in 1865 somewhere on the grounds of Cedar Point Amusement Park. Cooley is sure that the box holds documents proving that his ancestor is the rightful owner of the land, a fact which, if proven, would turn him from a millionaire to a billionaire overnight.

But there are plenty of parties who are interested in stopping Sloane and Amelia from finding the capsule, like the park manager who wants to protect Cedar Point, Sloane and Amelia’s schoolmate bent on destroying their reputation, and the ghostly specter that’s been caught on camera tampering with documents and equipment related to the time capsule search!

Sloane and Amelia are determined to find out what’s going on no matter what, even if it means fighting off the possessed, undead clowns Amelia is certain roam all carnival parks.


Chapter One: A New Case One A NEW CASE
It all began—as these things usually did—with Amelia being extremely dramatic.

There was nothing particularly surprising about that. Amelia was usually dramatic.

What was unusual was that she was being dramatic at a softball game.

(It should be noted that plenty of people get excited at softball games. However, that’s typically because they’re watching the game and have strong feelings about how their team is doing.)

However, when Amelia began shouting, it had nothing to do with the game.

In fact, she wasn’t even aware that there was a softball game going on at all.

On the other hand, Sloane noticed the game.

Maybe because she was in it.

The sun hit her eyes as she stepped up to bat. She tugged at the brim of her cap and squinted. Overhead, the sun panted in the sky above the Wauseon softball diamonds. As though trying to find a cloud with which to shade itself—and finding none. Puffs of dust rose from the grass in the outfield, which had turned crispy and brown with the July heat. Nearby, a train rumbled along the tracks, shaking loose chunks of gravel and adding even more dust into the air.

On the pitcher’s mound, Mackenzie Snyder squinted back at Sloane. She wasn’t trying to block out the dazzling sunlight, however.

She was doing it because she didn’t like what she was seeing.

Specifically, Sloane.

Shrugging, Sloane hefted her bat onto her shoulder and braced her legs. She knew how Mackenzie pitched. Just a little too close to the batter’s body. Not close enough to hit them, just close enough to make a nervous batter flinch backward.

Fortunately, Sloane wasn’t nervous.

Her teammates called her “Slayer Sloane” for her killer nerves under pressure.

But as Mackenzie cranked back her pitching arm, Amelia appeared in the far parking lot near the high school, running and shrieking, “Sloane!”

Instinctively, Sloane’s head twitched away from Mackenzie and toward her friend. Short and with a fiery mane of red curls, Amelia had made it across the parking lot and now ran along the chain-link fence separating right field from a creek bristling with wildflowers.

“Strike one!” the umpire cried as the softball whizzed past Sloane and was caught by Mackenzie’s teammate Kyleigh.

“Aw, Mr. Roth!” Sloane turned toward her seventh-grade English teacher. He made extra money in the summertime by umpiring softball games. “I was distracted!”

“Sorry, Sloane.” He crossed his arms. “That’s on you. Mac’s pitch was perfectly good.”

Out on the mound, Mackenzie cackled as Kyleigh slung the ball back to her.

“Sloane! Sloane-Sloane-Sloane!” Amelia tried to climb the chain-link fence. Neither terribly coordinated nor wearing very good shoes for it, she didn’t succeed. “Sloane! You won’t believe the news!”

News? In spite of herself, Sloane found her attention jerked toward Amelia again. Whatever it was, it probably had to do with their detective agency and YouTube channel: Osburn and Miller-Poe Investigations.

“Mr. Roth, can I please have a second?” Sloane begged, but her teacher-turned-umpire shook his head.

“Sorry, Sloane,” he said again. “Not unless your coach calls a time-out.”

Over in the shade of the ancient dugout, Sloane’s entire team glared at her, daring her to use up one of their precious timeouts.

Sloane swallowed and lifted up her bat, ignoring Amelia’s pleas.

Mackenzie smirked at her. In typically evil-but-perfect Mackenzie “Mac Attack” Snyder fashion, she timed her next pitch just right.

Right, that is, as Amelia drew closer, rattling the metal fence and shrieking, “It’s amazing! But we have to come up with a plan quick! Before my family does!”

Amelia’s family? Sloane shuddered at the thought.

And swung a second too late.

“Strike two!”

Amelia released the fence and disappeared behind the dugout, closer to the gate. Sloane prayed that Mackenzie would pitch before Amelia made it onto the diamond.

Mac did, for once mistiming the exact moment to make someone else miserable.

Grateful that even evil geniuses sometimes mess up, Sloane cracked the ball into the outfield. Mylie, the right fielder, tried to catch it, but her glove just missed. A fraction of an inch higher, and the softball would have made it over the fence and splashed into the creek, guaranteeing a home run. Instead, it chunked against the metal bar and thudded into the weeds.

Sloane would have to run for it.

“RUN!” her coach and teammates screamed from the dugout. “Run, Slayer, run!”

She took off toward first base.

As Amelia burst through the gate.

“Sloane!” Amelia panted behind her friend, completely uninterested in everyone shouting at her to get off the field. “We’ve been hired! Actually hired! With money! Someone wants to pay us to solve a mystery!”

What? What?! Hitting first base, Sloane’s instinct was to turn around. Instead, she forced herself to pivot toward second and pick up the pace.

Lifting up the skirts of a white dress that had no place on a dirty baseball diamond, Amelia chugged along after Sloane, still talking, “He saw the series we did on Ma Yaklin’s Missing Millions last month, and he was super impressed!”

“Amelia Miller-Poe, get off the field!” Mr. Roth shouted. When that didn’t stop her, he blew his whistle.

In the dugout, half of Sloane’s team was chanting “Run, Slayer, run! Run, Slayer, run!”

While the other half yelled at Amelia.

Sloane ignored it all, reaching second base. She wasn’t breathing properly and her running form was terrible, thanks to the distractions, but Sloane ignored that, too.

Because out of the corner of her eye, she saw Mylie flee from a hornet guarding the ball.

She could do this. She could make it.

Behind her, an exhausted-but-determined Amelia kept up, even though she lost a white shoe somewhere around second base when her heel broke. “He heard that BuzzFeed might be doing an interview with us and that we might even be getting our own show on Apple TV!”

BuzzFeed? Apple TV? When had all that happened? This was all new to Sloane. It was also almost enough to get her to slow down and turn around.


But not quite.

Her lungs knocked against her ribs, begging her to stop. Sloane reached third base just as Mylie finally stunned the hornet with a swat of her leather mitt and scooped up the ball. By now, everyone was screaming.

At Sloane to run harder.

At Mylie to throw the ball.

At Amelia to get off the dang field.

“We’re actually getting hired, Sloane! By someone who wants to pay us! But my family wants to ‘help’! We’ve got to stop them, Sloane!” Amelia managed to make herself heard over the shrill screech of Mr. Roth’s whistle.

The softball zoomed through the air. Sloane put on an extra burst of speed, not caring if her lungs collapsed from the effort. She slid into home plate in a cloud of dirt and flying clumps of dandelions as she heard the THWACK of the ball hitting Kyleigh’s glove.

“SAFE!” Mr. Roth shouted his verdict.

Sloane’s team roared their approval as Mackenzie stormed in from the pitcher’s mound to argue. Sloane remained on the ground.

Gasping for air like a beached goldfish.

Amelia’s sweaty, freckled face and frazzled curls blocked out Sloane’s view of the sky above.

“He’s in town today from Sandusky and wants to meet us at the Red Rambler Coffee House at three this afternoon. But my parents say we can’t meet him there without an adult,” Amelia panted, flopping down on the chalk line next to Sloane. Much like the chalk line itself, Amelia’s dress was no longer as white as it had once been. “I mean, not just some random adult either, but—you know—one of our adults. Now, my mom and dad and Aiden and Ashley are all trying to rearrange their schedules so they can be there. We can’t let them, Sloane! Even if they don’t take over, they’ll creep him out! What are we going to do?”

“Ungh” was all Sloane could come up with. She really needed a drink of water. And to get off the field so the next batter could come up. Without stepping on Sloane’s face. Which Taylor from the other team was threatening to do as she came in to replace Mackenzie as pitcher since Mr. Roth kicked her off the field for bad sportsmanship.

“I don’t know what ‘ungh’ means!” Amelia got to her feet, dragging Sloane along with her. Then she froze. “Oh no. They’re here.”

Amelia’s tone dropped from loud and frantic to a soft whisper of horror.

Following her friend’s gaze, Sloane watched as a shiny black BMW minivan careened its way into the parking lot, sending gravel skittering everywhere.

A very noisy, very bossy, very confident group of Miller-Poes poured out of it.

They stormed the field as though there to pillage it. There were only four of them, but somehow, there always seemed to be more. A whole pack of Vikings, barking out orders and their opinions.

All while truly believing they were actually helping.

“I’ll review the contract details!” Amelia’s father, the Judge promised. “See if we can’t squeeze a few more dollars out of this fellow!”

“I want terms! And conditions!” her mother, Amanda Miller snapped.

“Don’t worry, Amelia! We’ll be with you the entire time!” her half brother, Aiden, promised while her half sister, Ashley, nodded vigorously and added, “We’ll be your security team!”

With a whimper, Amelia collapsed onto the baseline again. As though trying to camouflage herself there.

Having had all three Miller-Poe children in class over the years, Mr. Roth was used to dealing with the family. He got Amelia to her feet and shoved everyone out the gate to the bleachers.

Free of distractions (aside from the yelling that continued over by the bleachers), the game resumed.

Sloane crawled back to the dugout, where she collapsed in a filthy, sweaty heap onto the bench and chugged water from a paper cone. Her teammates all slapped her approvingly on the back.

However, despite Sloane’s run, Mackenzie’s team won by one point.


“It’s your friend Amelia’s fault,” one of Sloane’s teammates grumbled.

Funny how quickly Sloane had gone from hero to villain.

Or at least the villain’s friend.

You missed that fly ball of Kyleigh’s,” Sloane shot back. The girl grabbed her bag and flounced off without any more complaints about Amelia.

Who had spent the rest of the game on the sidelines, surrounded by her family.

Shouting and arguing among themselves.

While Amelia melted onto the hot, metal bleachers. She was now a puddle of white skirts, red hair, and misery. Chin resting on hand, waiting for her family to tire out.

“I can’t go!” The Judge swiped at his phone, nose practically pressed to the screen. “I’ve got to hear arguments for a search warrant about some sort of shady illegal bingo operation that’s going on in town.”

“I’m lifeguarding all afternoon at the pool!” Aiden, studied his own phone. “Maybe I could just leave behind a bunch of life preservers?”

“I’ve got a very important investor lunch!” Amanda Miller cried. “Maybe I could tell them to check out that bingo operation?”

“I have to do filing at the courthouse!” Ashley huffed. “Judge Friedman gets very upset when her nails aren’t nice and even!”

Sloane dragged her bag over to her friend on the bleachers. Only to shoot back up again as the blisteringly hot metal touched the bare skin of her legs.

“YEEE-OUCH!” Sloane hopped around, trying to cool them off.

All the Miller-Poes stopped talking and blinked at her in surprise.

Amelia seized the moment of silence. “Remember what our family therapist said? You all need to listen more and stop trying to control everything! Don’t make me tell Dr. Spieles on you!”

That set off another round of outraged comments. Miller-Poes did not like being tattled on.

Because it implied that Miller-Poes had done something wrong.

Which, in turn, hinted that they might be less-than-perfect.

And that was obviously a crime.

As Sloane rubbed at her scorched thighs, her gaze fell on her Granny Kitty and Granny Pearl sitting in the grass beneath an elaborate striped-and-tasseled private tent.

“My grannies will do it,” Sloane croaked, still thirsty. When no one other than Amelia heard her, Sloane croaked louder. “Hey, hey. My grannies can go with us.”

Once again, everyone stopped jabbering over each other. They swung their attention toward the striped-and-tasseled tent.

Granny Kitty, Granny Pearl, and Great-Grandma Nanna Tia—sat in its shade. Battery-powered fans added a cooling breeze as Nanna Tia relaxed in a lounge chair. She wore a straw hat, sunglasses, and a loose flowery dress. Sipping a smoothie from a coconut shell, she watched as Granny Kitty and Granny Pearl counted stacks of money.

The two of them wore matching floral tracksuits, running shoes, and fanny packs. They both wore visors on their heads like they had stumbled out of a Las Vegas casino’s money-counting room.

Which… they sort of had.

Realizing it, Sloane gasped and stormed over to them.

“Are you betting on the games again?” she demanded, causing Granny Kitty to freeze as she licked her fingers to better index the wad of one-dollar bills in her hands.

Granny Kitty exchanged a guilty look with Granny Pearl.

“Erm,” Granny Pearl cleared her throat awkwardly. Usually, the grannies weren’t at a loss for words. Suddenly suspicious, Sloane snatched up a piece of paper from the table and scanned it.

“You’re taking bets against my team?” Sloane gasped in outrage. “And you’re heavily favoring the other team?”

“Wait, what?” The Judge hurried over and reached for the paper. “That isn’t legal!”

“Oh my! Isn’t it?” Granny Kitty went all fluttery, assuming the persona of a confused, little old lady.

“We had no idea!” Granny Pearl swore.

Over in her lounge chair, Nanna Tia sipped her coconut smoothie and said, “Does your mother-in-law know it’s illegal? Because she phoned in a bet from Florida.”

This gave the Miller-Poes something new to shout about.

Amelia hooked her friend by her very sweaty, very stinky collar and dragged her into the shade beneath the bleachers. She handed Sloane a Gatorade that she’d fished out of the grannies’ cooler. “Maybe they’ll all argue long enough that we can meet up with Mr. Collymore on our own.”

Sloane wiped the back of her hand across her brow. Her long black ponytail lay wetly against her neck. “Wait. What? Who’s Mr. Collymore? Is he from BuzzFeed or Apple TV?”

Mackenzie swaggered past right at that moment. Somehow, in spite of the heat and all the exercise, she looked perfectly cool and collected. While Sloane’s hair had wilted beneath her ball cap, Mackenzie’s blond ponytail remained annoyingly perky and bouncy.

Hearing Sloane, Mac rolled her eyes and sneered, “Oh please. No one from BuzzFeed or Apple TV would be interested in your weird detective show. Only losers watch your YouTube channel anyhow.”

“More than fifty thousand losers!” Amelia objected hotly. “I’ll have you know we’re number one in Denmark now for historical mysteries hosted by people under the age of eighteen! That’s a lot of losers!”

Which… admittedly wasn’t exactly the best comeback ever.

Still smirking, Mac flounced off.

“Grrrrrr.” Amelia stomped her foot. “Just once, I’d like to win with her!”

Sloane swept the hat from her head and used it to fan her face. “Forget her. She’s just jealous that people from BuzzFeed and Apple TV are interested in our channel… Amelia? Why are you looking like that, Amelia? There is someone from one of those places who’s interested in us, right? You didn’t just make up this Collymore guy, did you? Amelia, answer me.”

Amelia suddenly had the same shifty look the grannies got when Sloane caught them in the middle of a scheme.

Twisting her fingers together nervously, Amelia felt her face flame even hotter than it had from Mackenzie’s humiliation. “Well… I might have exaggerated a little. Mr. Collymore is some rich guy from Sandusky. His daughter is one of our followers. It’s just that—well, with everyone yelling at me, I got all nervous! So, I kind of made it sound more important so they’d get how big of a deal this is. I thought if I said BuzzFeed and Apple TV were interested in us, everyone would stop being mad and get why I was so happy.”

“Urk.” Sloane got a whiff of how stinky the inside of her cap really was. She stopped fanning herself. “Okay, that’s disappointing. But it’s also exciting that someone wants to hire us. If we can get an adult or two to go with us.”

Both girls swung their attention back to the grannies’ fancy tent. The Judge was deep in conversation with Nanna Tia. Just like his daughter a moment before, he’d gone red in the face, and was gulping like a goldfish, too. He and Amelia had never actually looked more alike.

“Now, now.” Nanna Tia patted the Judge on the arm. “Betting is just a bit of harmless fun. All the money we make is donated to the Fulton County Humane Society to help take care of those poor cats and dogs. Same with our little knitting club!”

This was, in fact, all true. The grannies ran a variety of technically illegal betting clubs. They gave the county’s senior citizens something to do, while providing plenty of money to feed, shelter, spay, and neuter unwanted pets.

However, those clubs were still illegal.

“Knitting club?” The Judge looked confused. “I heard it was an illegal bingo club!”

Nanna Tia chuckled indulgently as she led the Judge and the rest of the Miller-Poes toward their shiny black van. “Why don’t you come to my house with the police for their surprise visit this afternoon so you can see for yourself. Oh, and don’t worry about Amelia! Kitty and Pearl will take care of her.”

With that, Nanna Tia shoved the Judge into the passenger seat of the van.

“?‘Take care of her’?” he squeaked.

Good care of her.” Nanna Tia smiled and shut the door.

As the Judge pressed his face against the window—clearly trying to figure out if his daughter would be safer with or without Granny Kitty and Granny Pearl—the rest of the Miller-Poes stuffed themselves into the van.

This included Amelia. Who’d been snagged by her mother so she could “… change into something more sensible. What on earth are you wearing?”

Like her father, Amelia pressed her face against the glass. “Have your grannies pick me up in an hour! And what I said earlier about BuzzFeed and Apple TV is sort of true! I’ve emailed them both and tagged them in our latest TikToks! So they might interview us or want to set us up with our own reality show! You never know!”

As the van pulled away, neither girl realized that getting a deal with BuzzFeed or Apple TV wouldn’t be their biggest problem.

That they’d both soon be riding a roller coaster straight out of a nightmare.

Or that they’d literally become tangled up in mayhem before it was all over.

About The Author

Photograph courtesy of the author

Merrill Wyatt lives in Toledo, Ohio, with her husband, daughter, three cats, and a slightly surly guinea pig. She spent far too much of her childhood wandering around cemeteries and old Victorian homes. A middle school technology teacher, she is doll-phobic, donut-obsessed, and owns too many pairs of shoes.

Why We Love It

“This book could best be described as a warm-core, shenanigans-driven romp with a hilarious and eccentric cast of supporting characters that just so happens to contain all the ingredients of a satisfying mystery.”

—Kate P., Senior Editor, on Tangled Up in Mayhem

Product Details

  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (November 14, 2023)
  • Length: 256 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781665931052
  • Ages: 8 - 12

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"Sleuths skillfully, satisfyingly solve silly roller-coaster shenanigans."

– Kirkus Reviews

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More books in this series: The Tangled Mysteries