An absorbing mystery enhanced by its intriguing backdrop.

THE BULLET CATCH

MURDER BY MISADVENTURE

The Axelrods take readers to World War I–era New York City for a tale of magic, mystery and crime.

Orphan Leo lives in Hell’s Kitchen, getting by with his small gang by picking pockets, a skill he learned from reading Harry Houdini’s The Right Way to Do Wrong: An Exposé of Successful Criminals. When the gang’s leader kicks him out, Leo doesn’t want to return to a life of crime. He finds an ad for a magician’s assistant in a lifted wallet and follows up, landing a job as assistant to Signor Barzini, an established professional magician and friend of Houdini’s. Leo spends countless hours learning sleight of hand, how to manipulate cards and, finally, how to help Barzini perform his extraordinary new trick: the bullet catch. Leo will palm the real bullet and load a blank, pretend to shoot Barzini, then resurrect him on stage. Things go wrong when, just as they begin their performances, a famous magician dies as a result of a similar trick, attracting a police detective to investigate Barzini. The mother-and-son writing team brings the setting to life, including such luminaries of the time as Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as minor characters for verisimilitude. The inside knowledge of magic adds an exotic touch.

An absorbing mystery enhanced by its intriguing backdrop. (Historical mystery. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8234-2858-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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TRASH

In an unnamed country (a thinly veiled Philippines), three teenage boys pick trash for a meager living. A bag of cash in the trash might be—well, not their ticket out of poverty but at least a minor windfall. With 1,100 pesos, maybe they can eat chicken occasionally, instead of just rice. Gardo and Raphael are determined not to give any of it to the police who've been sniffing around, so they enlist their friend Rat. In alternating and tightly paced points of view, supplemented by occasional other voices, the boys relate the intrigue in which they're quickly enmeshed. A murdered houseboy, an orphaned girl, a treasure map, a secret code, corrupt politicians and 10,000,000 missing dollars: It all adds up to a cracker of a thriller. Sadly, the setting relies on Third World poverty tourism for its flavor, as if this otherwise enjoyable caper were being told by Olivia, the story's British charity worker who muses with vacuous sentimentality on the children that "break your heart" and "change your life." Nevertheless, a zippy and classic briefcase-full-of-money thrill ride. (Thriller. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-385-75214-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2010

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AKATA WITCH

Who can't love a story about a Nigerian-American 12-year-old with albinism who discovers latent magical abilities and saves the world? Sunny lives in Nigeria after spending the first nine years of her life in New York. She can't play soccer with the boys because, as she says, "being albino made the sun my enemy," and she has only enemies at school. When a boy in her class, Orlu, rescues her from a beating, Sunny is drawn in to a magical world she's never known existed. Sunny, it seems, is a Leopard person, one of the magical folk who live in a world mostly populated by ignorant Lambs. Now she spends the day in mundane Lamb school and sneaks out at night to learn magic with her cadre of Leopard friends: a handsome American bad boy, an arrogant girl who is Orlu’s childhood friend and Orlu himself. Though Sunny's initiative is thin—she is pushed into most of her choices by her friends and by Leopard adults—the worldbuilding for Leopard society is stellar, packed with details that will enthrall readers bored with the same old magical worlds. Meanwhile, those looking for a touch of the familiar will find it in Sunny's biggest victories, which are entirely non-magical (the detailed dynamism of Sunny's soccer match is more thrilling than her magical world saving). Ebulliently original. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 14, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-670-01196-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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