When a teenager is kidnapped and then mysteriously released, he and his best friend are determined to figure out why.
The first Hunter & Holmes Mystery quickly introduces us to its two young protagonists—straight-laced, methodical Jason Hunter and impulsive, emotional Daniel Holmes—and gets right down to business: Jason has been kidnapped, and as his parents, Daniel and his other friends slowly realize this, they contact the police and wait nervously for some progress. It comes quickly; after only a few dozen tense and well-orchestrated pages, Jason is released. He’s physically unharmed, but an angry Daniel sees that his friend’s confident personality has changed, and at Daniel’s urging, the two teens decide to solve the mystery of why Jason was kidnapped in the first place. There follows the benign clue-hunting and adult-outwitting (and two further kidnappings) that will be familiar to fans of the hobby-investigator sub-genre, all of it brightly illustrated with dozens of richly colored, manga-inspired drawings by Ricardo Carmona. The plot moves forward smoothly, and although the characters—especially the adults—speak and behave in often hilariously wooden ways, the author deploys just enough red herrings to keep even alert readers guessing until almost the last page. The mystery of Jason’s kidnapping is solved in due course, but this book has other mysteries, perhaps not so easily unraveled. Our young protagonists wear Converse All-Star “Chuck Taylor” shoes, for instance (they feature prominently in Carmona’s illustrations), and when a police detective notices this fact, he says, “I had a pair of chucks when I was your age…I see they are still considered cool today.” This book and its sequels are produced by The ChucksConnection, a subdivision of Hal Peterson Media Services, whose aim is to promote the “chucks club culture” (forceful Jason, for instance, always wears red high-top chucks, whereas rock-star rebel Daniel always wears black high-top chucks). Subtle product placement is still product placement, and that may lead some readers to wonder whether this is a mystery novel or an extended shoe commercial.
Younger readers may enjoy the book’s combination of action and deduction—they’ll certainly finish it wanting a pair of Chuck Taylors, in either red or black.