In this series opener, Cleo and Evan find themselves transported back in time to Victorian England to solve the crime of a stolen diamond.
In investigating the odd behavior of their new school librarian, Ms. Crowley, schoolmates Cleo and Evan discover a secret underground library. Lying on the table is an ornate book called The Case of the Mysterious Moonstone, with a key sticking out of its open, diarylike lock. They also find a note from their previous librarian, the beloved Ms. Hilliard, telling them, “If you have found this note, I am trapped somewhere between the covers of these enchanted books.” Opening the book, they suddenly find themselves in 19th-century London, where they realize they must help the bumbling young detective Artie Baker solve the case of a stolen diamond. Although the text has no physical descriptions of the young friends, the illustrations show Evan as black and Cleo as white. The mystery is set up much like a classic Agatha Christie (or a game of Clue): the suspects are all at the home of Col. Musgrave, and they must be questioned quickly. One of the suspects is Kumar, the bearded, turbaned butler; he speaks perfect English, but the illustration smacks of 19th-century exoticism.
With the emphasis on mystery and action rather than history, à la Magic Tree House, this new chapter-book series will appeal to junior detectives. (Mystery. 7-10)