Doug Cornett on Finally, Something Mysterious and the best mystery books for kids

Finally Something Mysterious by Doug Cornett. Book cover and author photo.
Something very strange is going on in Bellwood. And we all love a good mystery, don't we? The book we've sent our Cockatoo subscribers this month is perfect for fans of Robin Stevens or Sharna Jackson, or for any budding super sleuths who have ever started their own detective club! Finally, Something Mysteriouis a gripping mystery adventure and the first in a new series - we can't wait to read book two. Author Doug Cornett tells us about being inspired by a fleet of rubber ducks and his favourite mystery books for kids.

What inspired you to write Finally, Something Mysterious?

Once upon a time, I was flipping through a magazine when I came across an image that grabbed my attention. It was a painting of people at the beach surrounded by a fleet of little rubber duckies bobbing up and down in the water. Something about all those duckies captured my imagination. I read the article and learned that in the 1990s an ocean liner tipped over and spilled 28,000 bath toys into the Pacific ocean. The currents took them all over the world, and thousands of rubber duckies started showing up mysteriously on random shores. 

I loved the idea! I thought, “Wouldn’t it be weird if the same thing happened, but nowhere near an ocean? Like, in a small town, for instance? And wouldn’t it be extra weird if they only showed up in one person’s yard?” 

I started with the image in my head of the duckies in Mr. Babbage’s yard, and I let the story lead me from there. 

Are any of the characters or locations inspired by real people or places?

The town of Bellwood is inspired by the small town in Ohio that I grew up in, and also the small town that I live in now. When I was a kid, I always felt that even though my town appeared like a “normal” place, there were mysteries lurking just below the surface. I formed a detective team with my friends, but we never had a true mystery like the case of the rubber duckies. Writing this book was a way of living that childhood dream! 

Which one of the One and Onlys do you most relate to and why?

I definitely relate to Paul the most, which is why I chose to write the story from his perspective. He’s a little more even-keeled than Peephole and Shanks, but he goes crazy for mysteries. When I was young, I was always looking for mysteries to investigate in my small town, and so I connect with Paul’s excitement over the strange arrival of the duckies. He might be the voice of reason among the One and Onlys, but he also loves Shanks and Peephole for their unique characteristics. 

Is there a particular message you would like readers to take away from the book?

The main message I’d like readers to get is that bratwurst is both funny AND delicious! All joking aside, I’d love for readers to get invested in the mystery, to care about the characters, and to have fun while reading the book. There are all kinds of zany things going on in the book, but for me it really boils down to a story about friendship. Paul, Shanks, and Peephole are all very different people, but they support and believe in each other, and that’s how they end up solving the case. Also, the One and Onlys learn that their town, and the people in it, are more complicated and more relatable than they might have first appeared. I’d like readers to think about the people in their lives with empathy and curiosity! 

Can you tell us anything about what the future holds for Paul and his friends?

At the end of Finally, Something Mysterious, the One and Onlys have a feeling that another case will be coming their way soon. It turns out they were right! On the very first day of 6th grade, the detective team catches sight of an ominous robot crow perched atop the tallest tree in Bellwood. When they start to investigate this strange occurrence, they uncover a mystery that spans generations and reveals some unexpected truths about their town–and the people in it. This case is told from the perspective of Shanks, and so the readers get access to her thoughts this time around. You can read about this adventure in Finally, Something Dangerous: The One and Onlys and the Case of the Robot Crow

Do you have a favourite place to write?

My favourite place to write is at my desk at home. It sits under a window and it has two plants (that I occasionally forget to water), a rubber ducky, a statue of a crow, and my computer. A post-it note on the wall next to my desk reads, “Just tell the story.” This is there to remind me not to get too caught up in the small details of a plot. Sometimes, I can get bogged down by the particulars. There’s always a BIG story to tell, and that’s what I need to focus on. 

But the truth is, if I’m suddenly struck with inspiration, I’ll write wherever I happen to be. Sometimes, I’ll get ideas at random times–while I’m running, driving, standing in line at a coffee shop–and I’ll need to get those ideas down immediately. In those cases, I’ll pull out my phone and record a voice message. By this point, my friends and family are used to seeing me talk to myself. 

Why did you choose to write books for this age group?

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve always loved books. When I was about 8 years old, I remember discovering the incredible things that books can do. When I first read Katherine Paterson’s The Bridge to Terabithia, I learned that books can make you cry. When I read Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game, I learned that books can make you laugh and keep you guessing until the very last page. Immersing myself in books was such a huge part of forming my own identity. When I grew up, I knew I wanted to tell stories too, and I found that I had the most fun when I wrote stories for young readers. Writing for this age group allows me to be as wacky and ridiculous as I want to be, but also still craft stories that are emotionally complex. 

Which other mystery books would you recommend our subscribers read next?

I love reading mystery books! One of my recent favorites is Janae Marks’ From the Desk of Zoe Washington. Zoe is a twelve-year-old aspiring baker whose life gets thrown off balance by a letter out of the blue. It’s from her father, whom she has never met and has been in prison her whole life. When her father claims he is innocent of the crime, Zoe launches her own investigation into her family’s past. The book is a page-turner with important themes of justice and family. 

Also, I was gripped by The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson. The narrator, Matthew, has severe obsessive-compulsive disorder and spends his time observing his neighbors from his bedroom window. When he is the last person to see the victim of a kidnapping, he becomes compelled to investigate the crime on his own. The book is both a nail-biting mystery and a poignant character study. 

Finally, I mentioned Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game in an earlier answer. This is my favorite mystery book of all time. It’s strange, hilarious, and full of twists and puzzles. If you haven’t read this classic, check it out!

Copies of our Finally, Something Mysterious pack, including a copy of the book and loads of fun activities to go with it, are now available for individual purchase. Grab a copy while stocks last!

This post includes affiliate links to our page, meaning we receive a small percentage of the sale should you purchase through them. Additionally, a percentage from all sales on the platform goes directly to local UK bookshops which is an initiative we're delighted to support!


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