An interesting premise falls victim to too-familiar plotting.
When Oz Keiller opens the refrigerator door at his family’s restaurant and discovers the body of Aaron Sneider, he quickly finds he has also cracked the seal on a long-buried family secret: Years ago his father had been caught stealing nuclear secrets from Los Alamos. Oz teams up with his crime-show–obsessed best friend, Rusty, to hunt for evidence to prove his brother’s innocence after his brother is arrested for a crime Oz knows he didn’t commit. While interviewing his father’s old colleagues and Aaron’s contacts, Oz learns that his father may have been a scapegoat himself for a much larger conspiracy. Trying to craft a sophisticated plot with multiple suspects, Leonard unfortunately pulls too much from the same crime shows Rusty is obsessed with and gives the mystery away to savvy readers all too soon. Even though there’s not much in the way of scene-setting, it manages to feels like Oz is slogging back and forth between the same few places in a repetitive loop. The near-absence of adults is forced through a series of coincidences and comes across as a contrivance rather than a natural narrative occurrence.
An indistinguishable middle-school narrator in an unremarkable mystery. (Mystery. 10-14)