The mystery of the squashed cockroach by R. A. Spratt

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The Peski Kids series. Penguin, 2018, ISBN 9780143788812
(Ages: 8-12) Recommended. Themes: Spies. Brothers and sisters. Country life. Missing persons. When a gun-wielding masked woman kicks in the front door, siblings Joe, Fin and April's lives change dramatically. Their palaeontologist mother is missing, caught at an Eastern European border crossing with a USB hidden inside the ulna of a stegosaurus. Professor Maynard, their mother's boss needs to quickly move the children to safety away from the clutches of the evil Kolectiv hit team. There's no going back when the Professor blows up their suburban house.
Their horticulturalist father who left the family when April was a baby lives in a tiny country town called Currawong. The quirky townsfolk are obsessed with cockroaches, holding the annual cockroach race. Given a new surname, the Peski kids are left with a father they don't know, a lifestyle unfamiliar to them and a town filled with cockroach obsessed people.
After a disastrous first day of school, except for Joe's surprising aptitude for lawn bowls, the children decide to try and fit in. Searching for cockroaches to enter into the race, involves breaking into a neighbour's house with the help of a teenage whirlwind Loretta Viswanathan. When Loretta's expensive Madagascan cockroach is found dead in its aquarium, the Peski kids set out to solve the mystery. When the competitors for the annual race start dying off as well, Joe, Fin and April accompanied by Pumpkin the ankle-biting dog become detectives searching for clues.
The mystery of the squashed cockroach captures the reader from the prologue. Joe, April and Fin argue, bicker and generally get on each other's nerves, however they pull together in times of crisis. Each of their skills is needed to uncover the villain. Currawong's cast of characters are unique and unusual adding humour to this fast-paced adventure. R. A. Spratt's witty writing style and fast-paced plot make this an exciting new series. Life will never be the same, what adventures await in the next Peski Kids' adventure? An exciting class novel for middle primary students.
Rhyllis Bignell