Upper Middle Grade, 59 000 words
Lara Hunter’s obsessive-compulsive need for tidiness is tested when she’s forced to stay with her grandmother, a hoarder, who claims that a priceless Fabergé egg is hidden in her cluttered home.
Fourteen-year-old Lara is a self-proclaimed house elf and the “Queen of Clean.” Her urge to bring order out of chaos disorder is channeled into her hobby as an amateur cryptologist. When her uninsured father falls into a coma after a car accident—an accident Lara believes she caused—her family teeters near bankruptcy. Her mother Helga, also struggling to cope, sends her quarrelsome daughter to stay with her grandmother, Baba.
Not only is Baba a compulsive hoarder, but she insists her father left clues to a missing Fabergé egg hidden within her house. Helga thinks Baba is losing her mind, and has secretly booked her into a nursing home in a month. But Lara believes Baba, and sees a way to her own redemption by finding the egg and convincing her grandmother to sell it and pay the family’s debts. Lara discovers the first message in a hidden compartment behind a framed photograph. She decodes the writing, which points to other clues.
But Baba refuses to relinquish her pack-rat possessions. Lara cannot find the last clues buried within Baba’s hundred-year-old house when the rooms are filled to the ceiling with her clutter. Events come to a head when a snoopy neighbor learns of the egg and uses nefarious means to snatch the Fabergé egg for herself.