This engrossing mystery pits three brothers recently transplanted from Chicago against the rocky caverns of Arizona’s Superstition Mountain.
Simon, 11, feisty 6-year-old Jack and narrator Henry, 10, quickly grow curious about the menacing mountain that adults pointedly warn them against climbing. Their first clandestine trek ensues as they chase their roving cat, Josie. The boys feel the mountain’s oppressive eeriness and encounter three skulls on a precarious ledge. After some research with library books and a historical-society pamphlet, the three secretly return to the mountain with Delilah, a smart fifth grader who’s also new to Superstition. Broach brings her customary skill to this first of a projected series, articulating the boys’ personalities, sketching out adults (Mrs. Barker, a medical illustrator, is the most interesting) and adding the evenhanded Delilah. A fall injures Delilah and brings adults to the rescue, but it also permits Henry’s discovery of a hidden canyon, an old pair of saddlebags and a strange map. Broach sympathetically explores Henry’s voice, allowing the third-person narration to filter his perceptions as a lonely middle child. He loves reading, relishes the big words he learns and worries about not living up to his namesake, the late, roguish Great Uncle Hank.
Broach reserves plenty of suspicious characters, spooky landscapes and loose ends for the slated sequels, which both boys and girls will savor. (author’s note) (Mystery. 8-12)