A suspenseful mystery romp with art appreciation and heartening trust in readers’ intelligence.

THE VAN GOGH DECEPTION

From the Lost Art Mysteries series , Vol. 1

Two kids race around a city on a wintry night, tangling with elite operatives and foiling a crime they don’t understand.

In contemporary Washington, D.C., an unidentified man tries to evade goons in a parking garage. A roughly-12-year-old boy sits on a bench in the National Gallery of Art, alone, struck with amnesia. (This amnesia’s a plot device, not psychological realism.) Art—his name?—knows nothing about himself but everything about art history. Criminal mastermind Dorchek Palmer and his highly skilled covert criminal operatives will do anything to protect their sale of a forged van Gogh, including hacking and erasing security footage across the city—and kidnapping Art and 10-year-old Camille, Art’s friend from emergency-placement foster care. Narrative perspective bounces among the kids, Dorchek, and Dorchek’s team. The kids display plenty of ingenuity (spray your kidnapper’s stun gun with a shaken can of Coke!), but they don’t know Art’s identity or what’s going on. Readers, tantalizingly, know some things but not others: what’s the spider that Dorchek seeks to destroy? Who is Art? Integrated QR codes allow readers with access to a device/smartphone to view artwork by van Gogh, Degas, and other artists at relevant moments. Art and Camille are white, as are most other characters.

A suspenseful mystery romp with art appreciation and heartening trust in readers’ intelligence. (map, author’s note) (Mystery. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-75927-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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Will appeal to readers who appreciate action-oriented tales.

CHARLIE THORNE AND THE LOST CITY

From the Charlie Thorne series , Vol. 2

Hints left by Charles Darwin of a world-changing discovery send a 12-year-old supergenius deep into the Amazonian rainforest.

Holed up in the Galápagos Islands and hotly pursued by both the CIA and the KGB for knowing Einstein’s most deadly secret (see Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation, 2019), Charlie decodes a message about the “Greatest Treasure in Human History,” carved by Darwin almost two centuries ago on a tortoise’s plastron, and follows further coded clues first to Quito and then on into the Peruvian wilderness—with, eventually, no fewer than four sets of secret agents and treasure hunters in her wake. What might the “Greatest Treasure” be? Gibbs plays his cards close to his chest as he employs multiple point-of-view characters to spin out a chase through crowded city streets and teeming tropical forests, punctuated by big explosions and hails of gunfire, to a climactic flurry of lurid fatalities. Though—except for the paucity of high-tech gadgets and a refreshing centering of a highly competent girl hero—comparisons with the Alex Rider series are almost inevitable, the author’s fondness for overexplaining never lets the pace build up a compelling head of steam. Also, his multilingual, ethnically ambiguous protagonist is so much smarter and more competent than any of the grown-ups that none of the pickles she gets into are more than briefly suspenseful.

Will appeal to readers who appreciate action-oriented tales. (Thriller. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4381-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

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A thought-provoking title for sophisticated readers.

THE MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE OF AIDAN S. (AS TOLD TO HIS BROTHER)

A missing boy returns from another world. Will anyone believe his story?

When 12-year-old Aidan goes missing, his family and community members search everywhere in their small town. Things progress from worrying to terrifying when Aidan doesn’t turn up. No note. No trace. Not even a body. Six days later, Aidan’s younger brother, Lucas, finds Aidan alive in the attic they’d searched many times before. Aidan claims he was in a magical world called Aveinieu and that he got there through a dresser. While everyone around the brothers searches for answers, Lucas gets Aidan to open up about Aveinieu. Lucas, who narrates the story, grapples with the impossibility of the situation as he pieces it all together. Is any part of Aidan’s story true? YA veteran Levithan’s first foray into middle grade is a poignant tale of brotherly love and family trauma. The introspective writing, funneled through a precocious narrator, is as much about what truth means as about what happened. Though an engaging read for the way it makes readers consider and reconsider the mystery, the slow burn may deter those craving tidy resolutions. Bookish readers, however, will delight in the homages to well-known books, including When You Reach Me and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The cast defaults to White; the matter-of-fact inclusion of LGBTQ+ characters is noteworthy.

A thought-provoking title for sophisticated readers. (Mystery/fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984848-59-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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