The Ghostly Photos (Mysteries of Trash and Treasure, 2)

The Ghostly Photos (Mysteries of Trash and Treasure, 2)
Age Range
Release Date
September 12, 2023
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New York Times bestselling middle-grade thriller author Margaret Peterson Haddix returns to the Mysteries of Trash and Treasure series as Colin and Nevaeh unravel a mystery from the 1930s and explore the emotions associated with death and dying.
Colin and Nevaeh are great at finding things. After all, they found each other and became best friends—even though their parents are business rivals. They also found hidden boxes of secret letters, which led them to unravel mysteries about kids from the 1970s.

But when they started Mystery Solvers Inc., they didn’t expect to be asked to find a ghost.

Ree recruits them to investigate a series of old, spooky photos left behind in her family’s new house. The photos show a boy who looks totally see-through. And in some, he’s in a coffin.

That’s not so odd for Ree, who lives above a funeral home. But when Colin and Nevaeh start investigating, they discover other sightings of the boy—and other secrets Ree is hiding.

The more clues they find, the more they realize this mystery goes back to a time called the Great Depression. Will history, once again, help them solve the case?

Editor review

1 review
Mystery in a Small Ohio Town
Overall rating
Writing Style
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After their adventures in The Secret Letters, Colin and Nevaeh are at the Groveview, Ohio Zucchini Festival, with a booth advertising their Mystery Solvers business. They are approached by a girl they don't know, Serena Lane, who has an unusual mystery that can only be discussed at her home. This happens to be the Lane-Rhodes Funeral home that her mother and step father run. After showing the two detectives pictures she found in the attic of two presumably dead boys in a coffin, Ree starts to act very oddly and tells them they have to go. Nevaeh overhears her talking to her grandmother, but when she and Colin return and pretend to be acting as a welcoming party from the school (in July!), teenager Ben and seven year old Melanie see through their act. At first, they pretend they don't know who Ree is, but it turns out that she is not supposed to be in Groveview and is hiding from her mother. Colin uses his research skills and manages to find out that the boy in the picture is someone who fell off the train in 1930 and was killed. Continuing on in their fact finding, the children are able to uncover more connections to town residents, and their own friends, to the mysterious boys. They are also dealing with the death of Colinś estranged father, Ree's grandmother's dementia, and a bit of rivalry between the two competing estate sale businesses. Will the two be able to put the "ghost" to rest?

Good Points
There are many interwoven facets in this book that make it very interesting, but also challenging to read. In addition to the primary mystery of the deceased boy, there are subplots about Nevaeh's relationship with her older sister Prilla, the death of Colin's estranged father, a little bit about the family business cleaning out homes, and a rich backstory about Ree's grandmother Hal and her involvement with the mysterious boy, as well as information about dealing with Hal's dementia.

The Groveview, Ohio setting is great, since it gives the children a lot of opportunity to roam around. The library is a helpful resource, and has a great librarian. My only quibble is that Ohio readers will know that the Zucchini Festival is always held in Obetz!

Ben and Melanie, along with their father, are portrayed as darker skinned, and struggle with being asked "where they're really from". The children model good behavior about treating others with respect, although they occasionally need help to get this right. There is helpful information about communicating with someone who has dementia as well.

My favorite parts were the information about the Great Depression, and cultural practices about funerals and treatment of the dead. The way that the family members in Groveview tied into the mystery was very interesting, and the funeral parlor setting is not all that usual for middle grade books. Hand this to readers who like the mystery and friend relationships in books like Souder's Coop Knows the Scoop and The Mystery of the Radcliffe Riddle, or Currie's It Found Us.
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