Crime does pay off—to the benefit of others—in this enjoyable novel.

READ REVIEW

NICKEL BAY NICK

A kid discovers the identity of his depressed town’s anonymous benefactor and ends up learning some secrets about himself.

Eleven-year-old Sam Brattle, embittered at having the lousiest Christmas ever—and with a heart transplant and extensive history of larceny behind him—is blackmailed by his mysterious neighbor into taking on the role of Nickel Bay’s homegrown secret Santa, the titular Nickel Bay Nick. Wealthy Mr. Wells has stealthily been distributing $100 bills around town at Christmastime for years, boosting the spirits and fortunes of its economically discouraged citizens. This year, laid up with a broken leg and possessing a weighty dossier of Sam’s crimes, which threaten to remove Sam from his struggling single dad’s care, Mr. Wells needs someone crafty and nimble-fingered to do the deed for him—i.e., Sam, who can’t afford to refuse. What ensues adds up to a fast-paced adventure, narrated by Sam in the first person, that’s filled with humor, excitement, some shady characters, secrets, Sam’s growing maturity and some deep emotional pain. There’s a real cinematic feel here—Pitchford also writes for the screen and stage—and there’s a certain amount of implausibility, predictability and coincidence, yet these contrivances don’t mar this well-written tale. Sam’s a great, well-realized kid, and readers will root for him every step of the way. A surprising, poignant twist at the end explains Mr. Wells’ true motives for involving Sam and brings about a satisfying, uplifting finale.

Crime does pay off—to the benefit of others—in this enjoyable novel. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-399-25465-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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Written in workhorse prose, it’s an amiable enough read.

ALI CROSS

The prolific king of the beach read is back with an intergenerational mystery for the 9-to-12-year-old set.

Ali Cross, the son of Patterson’s most famous creation, African American homicide detective Alex Cross, is “starting to think the worst might have happened” to his mixed-race friend Gabriel “Gabe” Qualls, who disappeared on Dec. 21 and hasn’t been heard from as of Christmas Eve, when the book opens. Ali offers an impromptu prayer for Gabe at the pre-holiday service at his all-black church as well as an impromptu press conference outside of it as journalists and paparazzi confront Alex about his alleged coma-inducing assault of a murder suspect’s father. Then someone robs the Crosses’ home that night along with four other homes; the Crosses’ Christmas gifts are stolen. Ali, obsessed with finding Gabe and feeling that these events will distract his dad and the police from searching for him, starts his own investigation—complete with looking at some contraband footage of Gabe’s unusually loaded backpack obtained by Ali’s stepmother, also a cop—and questioning his school and gaming pals, a diverse group. Writing in Ali’s voice with occasional cutaways to third-person chapters that follow Alex, Patterson sprinkles the narrative with pop-culture references even as he takes readers through the detective process.

Written in workhorse prose, it’s an amiable enough read. (Mystery. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-53041-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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  • SPONSORED PLACEMENT

A killer thriller.

THREE HOURS IN PARIS

Black takes time out from chronicling the neighborhood-themed exploits of half-French detective Aimée Leduc to introduce a heroine as American as apple pie.

Kate Rees never expected to see Paris again, especially not under these circumstances. Born and bred in rural Oregon, she earned a scholarship to the Sorbonne, where she met Dafydd, a handsome Welshman who stole her heart. The start of World War II finds the couple stationed in the Orkney Islands, where Kate impresses Alfred Stepney of the War Department with the rifle skills she developed helping her dad and five brothers protect the family’s cattle. After unimaginable tragedy strikes, Stepney recruits Kate for a mission that will allow her to channel her newly ignited rage against the Germans who’ve just invaded France. She’s parachuted into the countryside, where her fluent French should help her blend in. Landing in a field, she hops a milk train to Paris, where she plans to shoot Adolf Hitler as he stands on the steps of Sacre-Coeur. Instead, she kills his admiral and has to flee through the streets of Paris, struggling to hook up with the rescuers who are supposed to extract her. Meanwhile, Gunter Hoffman, a career policeman in a wartime assignment with the Reichssicherheitsdienst security forces, is charged with finding the assassin who dared attempt to kill the Führer. It’s hard to see how it can end well for both the cop and the cowgirl. The heroine’s flight is too episodic to capitalize on Black’s skill at character development, but she’s great at raising readers’ blood pressure.

A killer thriller.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Soho Crime

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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SPACE CASE

From the Moon Base Alpha series , Vol. 1

When Dr. Holtz’s body is discovered just outside the lunar colony, everyone assumes he made a mistake putting on his spacesuit—but 12-year-old Dashiell “Dash” Gibson has reason to believe this was no accident.

Earth’s first space base has been a living hell for Dash. There’s not much to do on the moon besides schoolwork and virtual-reality gaming, and there’s only a handful of kids his age up there with him. The chance to solve a murder is exactly the type of excitement Dash needs. As clues are found and secrets are uncovered, Dash comes to understand that some of the base’s residents aren’t what they seem to be. With a small cast of characters supplying an excellent variety of suspects, Gibbs creates the best kind of “murder on a train” mystery. The genius, however, is putting the train in space. Closed quarters and techno–mumbo-jumbo add delightful color to the proceedings. Thankfully, the author doesn’t let the high-concept setting overshadow the novel’s mystery. The whodunit is smartly paced and intricately plotted. Best of all, the reveal is actually worth all the buildup. Thrillers too often fly off the rails in their final moments, but the author’s steady hand keeps everything here on track.

Fully absorbing. (Mystery. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-9486-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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