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by James Klise

Age Range: 11 - 14

Pub Date: April 22nd, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-61620-195-1
Publisher: Algonquin

Relationships, secrets and lies aplenty for caper-loving fans.

Here are the facts: Saba Khan’s family is left homeless after a suspicious fire guts their small Chicago apartment. Saba’s school community rallies around the reserved, observant tennis player and her family, and two fellow students, Kendra and Kevin Spoon, organize a charity auction on their behalf. Among the donations is a 10-page illustrated story by renowned Chicago self-taught artist Henry Darger (trash-picked in Darger’s old neighborhood by Kendra and Kevin), which is promptly insured for $550,000 and then goes missing. Who torched the Khans’ apartment? Who stole the artwork, and why? How did they do it? The answers unfold with briskly paced care in Klise’s (Love Drugged, 2010) second novel, an apparent homage to the style of his sisters Kate and M. Sarah Klise’s Regarding the Fountain (1998) and others. Through the interview transcripts, journal entries, text messages and overheard conversations of Saba and her father, as well as fellow students, faculty and administration at Highsmith School, readers get both bird’s-eye and close-up views of the case, and careful readers will quickly unmask the culprit. Strong on plotting and art history but weak on believable voices (Saba herself comes through beautifully, but her father, Farooq, and Spanish exchange student Javier are particularly cringe-inducing), Klise doesn’t quite pull off the trick his clever, appealing villains do.

Enjoyable but inessential. (Mystery11-14)