A smart kid foils big-time thieves in the nation’s capital—and joins the FBI.
Using a method he invented called the Theory of All Small Things, white seventh-grader Florian Bates solves mysteries by piecing together seemingly trivial clues in this engaging, humorous, but not always logical caper. When Florian easily helps the FBI recover three masterpieces stolen from the National Gallery of Art, the dazzled feds supply him with an alias and train him at Quantico. Collaborating with his African-American best friend, superbright, athletic Margaret, Florian finds that even with TOAST, sleuthing gets dangerous when the pair, working undercover, come up against a European crime syndicate—and another spectacular art heist in the form of a forgery substituted for an iconic Monet. Exciting adventures ensue, and clues accumulate until the culprit is revealed and the genuine painting located. Missteps intrude, though: a few lapses in logic may leave readers puzzled; some clues seem contrived; and a subplot involving Florian’s discovery of the startling identity of adopted Margaret’s biological father falls flat. The solution is also a letdown: the thief is a minor figure, and the means by which the painting was stolen and the forgery set in its place aren’t explained. The real draws here are the two resourceful leads’ solid, realistic friendship, bolstered by snappy dialogue, brisk pacing, and well-crafted ancillary characters—not to mention behind-the-scenes glimpses of the FBI.
More escapades are promised in this improbable but satisfying series starter. (Mystery. 9-12)