Literature: Sammy Keyes

We live in Santa Martina, remember? This town is full of wackos.
Sammy Keyes and the Psycho Kitty Queen

Sammy Keyes, to quote The Other Wiki, is a series of mystery novels aimed at children and teenagers that, of course, follows the adventures of the titular protagonist. In most of the books, she deals with everyday junior high school life, solves mysteries, and contends with her arch-nemesis Heather Acosta, though there have been a couple of exceptions to the formula.

These works contain examples of the following tropes:

  • Adult Fear: One story (Search for Snake Eyes) centers around Sammy running into a scared, desperate girl, who forces Sammy to take a bag. When the girl is forced to leave, it turns out that there's a baby inside. It's later revealed that the baby was the girl's son and that she was forced to give him to a complete stranger to protect him from her abusive ex-boyfriend, who was hunting her down. The climax of the novel reveals that the ex did catch her, and left her in his basement, tied up and starving. After she's rescued, she wants to see her baby before getting medical treatment.
    • Considering some of the dangerous situations Sammy gets into and somehow manages to get out of, mostly all of her books contain at least one example of Adult Fear, which can either make the danger more realistic or make her getting out of it more improbable.
    • The entirety of Kiss Goodbye, full stop.
  • An Aesop: Most of the books have at least one. Despite being Anvilicious at points, they're handled well.
  • Alliterative Name: Tenille Toolee, the Dragon to Heather's Big Bad.
  • Alpha Bitch: Heather, complete with a one-dimensional, dimwitted Girl Posse.
  • Arch-Enemy: Heather Acosta, to Sammy.
  • Author Appeal: Van Draanen's parents are Dutch immigrants, and so are Dot's. Her husband's great-grandfather crossed the plains in 1850. In Moustache Mary, the eponymous pioneer was part of a group of travelers doing the same thing, and Sammy spends New Years' with Dot's family. It's one of the few cases where the authour appeal is educational-as well as delicious.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: The Sisters of Mercy, big time!
  • Bluff the Eavesdropper: In Sisters of Mercy, Sammy and Marissa do this to Monet when they start deliberately going over the wrong softball signals.
  • Book Ends: Hotel Thief starts and Kiss Goodbye ends with Sammy waving to someone through a window. And both books have the same culprit.
  • Camp Gay: Art gallery owner—and Ren Faire booth-runner—Jojo in Art of Deception.
  • Chekhov's Gun: As is natural for almost any detective story.
    • Sammy's jamming the fire escape door latch to get into the Highrise undetected comes back to bite her in Kiss Goodbye. Her attempted killer jams two doors in the hospital stairwell the same way in order to access the room containing an unconscious Sammy.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Darren Cole, a rock musician first mentioned in Psycho Kitty Queen whose fandom includes Sammy, Casey, and Marissa's family. In Showdown in Sin City, it's revealed that he's Sammy's father.
    • Throughout Kiss Goodbye, it's suggested the man who pushed Sammy off the fire escape is a villain from the earlier book. It's the culprit from Hotel Thief, Larry Daniels aka "Oscar the ice cream man."
  • City of Adventure: Santa Martina.
  • Character Name and the Noun Phrase: The format all the titles follow.
  • Comic-Book Time: The first installments were published, and presumably set, around 1990ish. About a year and a half has passed in Sammy's world, but the setting has kept pace with the twenty-some years passing on the outside: in recent books, most middle-school kids have their own cell phones.
  • Cool Old Guy: Hudson.
  • Cool Old Lady: Grams has her moments.
  • Crazy Cat Lady: In Psycho Kitty Queen, obviously. A local former pageant queen named Katherine insistently goes by Kitty, keeps many cats, and harbors a vicious dislike of dogs. She claims to be able to identify a scrap of furry skin as a piece of dog ear...by licking it.
  • Cute Bruiser: And again, Sammy.
    • Holly Janquell, her baseball bat, and her troubled past would like to weigh in, too.
  • Darker and Edgier: How many kid detective series involve arson, murder, drugs, and sex, without any loss in quality?
    • As well as having thirteen and fourteen year olds drinking and smoking. While underage drinking and such are handled in other, grittier stories, few of them are aimed at younger children.
    • In the final book Sammy gets pushed off the fire escape and ends up in the hospital, and the one who pushed her keeps coming back to finish the job.
  • Deadpan Snarker: A lot of characters in the series have shades of this, but it's most apparent in Sammy's narration.
  • Driving Question: Arguably - Sammy wants to know who her father is, and Van Draanen has stated that the series will end when she finds out.
    • More recently, Van Draanen said on her blog that Sammy will find out who he is with in the next few books, and the series will continue for several books after that. At the time of this edit, that book and a second came out; only one more is planned.
    • Sammy finds out in the sixteenth book, Showdown in Sin City, two before the end of the series.
  • Enemy Mine: Sammy and Officer Borsch help each other out occasionally. They eventually become Friendly Enemies, and then outright friends.
  • Eureka Moment: Again, as usual for the genre.
  • Evil Redhead: Heather, as well as her mother, though it's been suggested that they're dyeing it.
  • Fair Play Whodunit
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Sammy (choleric), Marissa (phlegmatic), Holly (melancholic), Dot (sanguine).
  • He Is Not My Boyfriend: Sammy and Casey. No one believes her.
  • Hidden Depths: Many, many characters.
  • Inspector Javert: Officer Borsch, initially.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Sammy and Hudson.
    • Sammy and Officer Borsch, eventually.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Sammy finds an old picture of her neighbor, Mrs. Graybill.
  • Jerkass: Heather, all the way. Until her Heel-Face Turn at the end of Showdown in Sin City.
    • Danny Urbanski, as well.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Amazingly, Officer Borsch.
  • Kaleidoscope Eyes: Father Mayhew is mentioned to have them.
  • Kick the Dog: Heather's character is practically built upon petty maliciousness. Special mention goes to her taunting Sammy about losing her father's softball mitt in Sisters of Mercy.
  • Kid Detective: Sammy herself, sometimes with help from her friends. She calls it "snooping".
  • Masked Luchador: El Gato in Psycho Kitty Queen. He's actually Borsch, undercover on his own time to infiltrate a catfighting ring.
  • Mystery Magnet: A stranger example than others, as each mystery usually takes place within a month. Other Mystery Magnet stories aren't as regulated.
  • The Nicknamer: Sammy, in regards to practically everything. She has a tendency to give people she encounters (often unflattering) nicknames before she knows their real names. If she likes you, she'll start calling you by your real name once she knows it, but if not, the nickname sticks.
  • Not Allowed to Grow Up: Averted. Sammy's age progresses as the series goes on. At least, until Psycho Kitty Queen, when Lana reveals she lied about Sammy's age to get her into Kindergarten early. And she tells her this days before her 14th birthday, which is actually her 13th.
  • One Steve Limit: Cassie Kuo, a minor character from Sisters of Mercy, is given the nickname "Cricket" in Wild Things, apparently so as not to confuse her with Casey Acosta.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: Meta example. The eighteenth and final book, Kiss Goodbye, is the only book not to be narrated by Sammy, it's the only one with chapter titles, and it has the highest stakes, with Sammy comatose after being pushed off the fire escape and the man responsible trying to finish the job.
  • Out, Damned Spot!: Happens in Dead Giveaway. Luckily, it ends better than a lot of examples.
  • Parental Abandonment: Sammy's dad has vanished, and her mother has run off to Hollywood to be an actress. Once her dad learns he has a daughter, he makes an effort to get back into Sammy's life, and is a major character in Killer Cruise.
    • Casey certainly believes this is the case in Wedding Crasher when his dad Warren gets a part in the same soap opera as Sammy's mom, thus forcing him to move in with his mother and sister, both of whom he hates. This causes some angst in his relationship with Sammy. It's also on the Squick side of things for the both of them when they find out that Warren and Lana are moving in together after having dated for a while. However, Warren and Lana's relationship doesn't last through Showdown in Sin City.
  • Retired Badass: One possible interpretation of Hudson.
  • Serious Business: Santa Martina takes softball very seriously, so much so that there's a softball statue in City Hall. It's rumored that the mayor bows to it every day.
  • Shadow Archetype: Explicitly spelled out as Heather's relationship to Sammy, up to having the same birthday.
  • Sickbed Slaying / Vorpal Pillow: Averted and subverted in Kiss Goodbye. The villain plans to murder an unconscious Sammy by smothering her with the pillow from her hospital bed, and plans on it taking three minutes (he got a time of six minutes from the web, then halved it due to Sammy being unconscious). However, he never gets those three minutes, as Sammy's friends and family are always by her side.
  • Street Urchin: Holly, initially.
  • The Password Is Always Swordfish: When Sammy wants to figure out how to crack a safe in Sisters of Mercy, the advice Hudson gives her is essentially this trope, but paraphrased. Winds up a Chekhov's Skill in the same book when she has to open a safe at the church.
  • Together in Death: Really, really creepy variation in Hollywood Mummy. Sammy's mother Lana, an actress, fakes an ID so she can claim to be 25. Unfortunately, her new birthdate is the day her boss's wife died. He thinks Lana is the reincarnation of his wife, and he tries to kill both of them so they can be reincarnated together.
  • Villainous Breakdown: In the later books, this happens to Heather. She still hasn't really recovered from it. It doesn't help that Sammy saved her from drowning, either.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Heather Acosta - when Sammy realizes this, it forces her to admit that they're Not So Different.
  • Wham Episode: Showdown in Sin City. Grams and Hudson get married, Marissa's family falls apart and decides to move away from Santa Martina, Sammy and Heather team up and overcome their mutual hatred, and Sammy's father's identity is revealed.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Grams and Hudson danced around this for most of the series. Eventually, they did.