Fourteen-year-old Jack Mason and his 15-year-old fellow apprentice in detection, Scarlet Bell, find danger and turmoil in this steampunk adventure.
As the story opens, Jack and Scarlet experience a bomb blast from a device set off by a suffragist terror group called the Valkyrie Circle. The pair assist world-famous private inspector Ignatius Doyle in his work. In pursuit of clues, Mr. Doyle, accompanied by Jack and Scarlet, flies his private airship to Barcelona. The story really takes off during their visit to Spain: they meet an MI5 officer named John Fleming; Jack and Scarlet are abducted by thugs looking for a mysterious thing called X-29; and a poisonous snake bites Scarlet. Wild-goose chases, red herrings, and double crosses keep suspense mounting. Mr. Doyle finally puts a finger on the problem when he asks: “Why would a terrorist suffragette organization be associated with a gang of technology thieves?” The answer to this question leads to a whopping climax and a satisfying ending. All elements of the narrative are subordinate to this complex series of events, and experienced readers of fantasy and science fiction may find the worldbuilding somewhat thin.
Nevertheless, middle-grade readers will likely be caught up in the excitement of the story and find the pluck and boldness of the daring duo engaging. (Steampunk. 11-14)