Max is back in the second part of Voight’s fine, neatly meandering mystery set early in the last century.
Feisty Max is a “Solutioneer,” donning costumes from his parents’ now-dark theater to take on sundry roles in order to investigate mysteries. These have ramped up from merely finding and restoring things in The Book of Lost Things (2013) to now investigating numerous incidences of vandalism and arson at the behest of the mayor. The implausible conceit, that this 12-year-old can believably pass himself off as all manner of working men, works, thanks to Voigt’s confident storytelling, enhanced by Bruno’s quirky, detailed illustrations. Max is a determined loner, convinced of his ability to straighten out challenging issues with only minor help from his friends and grandmother. But young criminals entrap him, and it’s only with lots of assistance that he wraps up the case. Meanwhile, he’s haunted by messages he’s received from his missing parents. He realizes they include a desperate, encoded plea for help—but also a warning of grave danger. The well-constructed, intertwining threads of Max’s growing maturity, the emerging competence of his diversely spirited friends and his recognition of their dynamic interdependence all come satisfyingly together to set up the ultimate case for the last of the trilogy: the rescue of his parents from a tiny, remote South American country.
Let the games continue…. (Mystery. 10-15)