This science-heavy mystery isn’t as smart as it would like to be.

DEATH SPIRAL

From the Faith Flores Science Mysteries series

When a junkie dies, no one bothers to ask questions—except her daughter.

Six weeks have passed since Faith found her addict mother dead in their West Philly apartment, but she still hasn’t settled into her new life with her aunt in the suburbs. Already troubled by lingering doubts about her mother’s apparent overdose, Faith begins to search for hard answers after she discovers her mother was secretly participating in a clinical trial for a new treatment for heroin addiction. Though Faith’s reluctant to share her troubles with her aunt and her perky best friend, she finds a confidant—and romantic interest—in Jesse, a new student with a rebellious streak. Debut novelist Chodosh provides plenty of detail as Faith delves into the world of big-money medical research and gene therapy, but the science and mystery fall as flat as the unconvincing dialogue. Faith’s research never actually feels like the start of a genuine passion for the subject, and most of the progress she makes in her investigation comes through good luck rather than actual deductions. Astute readers will guess the truth behind her mother’s death long before the improbable denouement.

This science-heavy mystery isn’t as smart as it would like to be. (Mystery. 12-17)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-9293-4500-7

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Poisoned Pencil

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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TRASH

In an unnamed country (a thinly veiled Philippines), three teenage boys pick trash for a meager living. A bag of cash in the trash might be—well, not their ticket out of poverty but at least a minor windfall. With 1,100 pesos, maybe they can eat chicken occasionally, instead of just rice. Gardo and Raphael are determined not to give any of it to the police who've been sniffing around, so they enlist their friend Rat. In alternating and tightly paced points of view, supplemented by occasional other voices, the boys relate the intrigue in which they're quickly enmeshed. A murdered houseboy, an orphaned girl, a treasure map, a secret code, corrupt politicians and 10,000,000 missing dollars: It all adds up to a cracker of a thriller. Sadly, the setting relies on Third World poverty tourism for its flavor, as if this otherwise enjoyable caper were being told by Olivia, the story's British charity worker who muses with vacuous sentimentality on the children that "break your heart" and "change your life." Nevertheless, a zippy and classic briefcase-full-of-money thrill ride. (Thriller. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-385-75214-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2010

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A twisty and entertaining magic-filled mystery that mirrors real-life issues.

CITY OF VILLAINS

From the City of Villains series , Vol. 1

A teen’s sense of justice leads her into dark and unexpected places.

Mary Elizabeth lives in the Scar with her Aunt Gia, living life to the fullest with her boyfriend, James; his Neverland boys; and her best friend, Ursula. While Mary balances attending school at Monarch High; partying at Wonderland, a local club for minors; and her internship with the police department that solved her parents’ murders, tensions rise between Legacy, the Scar’s original inhabitants who have a magical lineage, and Narrows, privileged incomers without magic. When the mysterious Mad Hatter strikes, leaving grisly presents for the police, and a wealthy Legacy student disappears, the police chief puts Mary and a young officer on the case in search of answers and justice. The Scar is a complex and realistic setting where Legacy struggle with collective trauma, social unrest, and inequity while rich Narrows families are buying up and building on Legacy land that holds spiritual significance and reshaping the high school to be less inclusive. Themes discussed include politics after the Death of Magic and the co-opting of Legacy culture by Narrows as well as the importance of chosen family. The appearance of familiar characters will draw readers into this story that delves into society’s darkness. Mary is pale-skinned with red hair; ethnic diversity in the cast does not correspond with Legacy versus Narrows status.

A twisty and entertaining magic-filled mystery that mirrors real-life issues. (Fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-368-04938-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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