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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 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.
  • 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. The flatness of the characters could easily be explained by Sammy's biased perceptions of them.
  • 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!
  • 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.
  • City of Adventure: Santa Martina.
  • Character Name and the Noun Phrase: The format all the titles follow.
  • Cool Old Guy: Hudson.
  • Cool Old Lady: Grams has her moments.
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • 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 (sanguine), Holly (melancholic), Dot (phlegmatic).
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • The Nicknamer: Sammy, in regards to practically everything.
  • 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.
  • Out, Damned Spot!: Happens in Sammy Keyes and the 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.
    • Casey certainly believes this is the case in The 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.
  • 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 rumoured 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.
  • Street Urchin: Holly, initially.
  • The Password Is Always Swordfish: When Sammy wants to figure out how to crack a safe, the advice Hudson gives her is essentially this trope, but paraphrased.
  • Together in Death: Really, really creepy variation in Sammy Keyes and the 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: A possible interpretation of Heather Acosta. Neither of her parents seem to particularly care about her, with her mom apparently going through some kind of mid-life crisis and her dad wishing he had a restraining order against her.
  • Will They Or Won't They: Grams and Hudson have been dancing around this for several books now, with no evident conclusion.
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