THE MYSTERY HIDEOUT

An author of adult best-sellers attempts to cross over with a routine mystery (first published in Britain in 1976). Izzie's father is trying to raise money to reopen an old film studio—behind the flat where Izzie's friend Mick lives—when word comes that a developer, Norton Wheeler, is seeking permission to raze both the studio and the fiats. Sneaking into the studio, Mick and Izzie spy on a group of tough-talking men with a suitcase of money. Could they be the infamous Disguise Gang, bank robbers who use makeup rather than masks? Then Mick locates Wheeler's house and finds a makeup brash plus a deposit slip from a recently robbed bank; 20 pages later it occurs to him that Wheeler might be connected to the Gang! Comparing robberies to a schedule that a neighbor just happens to have kept of traffic in and out of the studio, Mick reaches the stunning conclusion that the Disguise Gang uses the studio for a hide-out! This less-than-dazzling detective work culminates in a nearly drama-free climax: the bad guys nab Izzie just before they are themselves nabbed by the police. These characters have little individuality, and Follett makes no apparent effort to surprise or challenge readers. A disappointment.

Pub Date: April 25, 1990

ISBN: 0590425064

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 23, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1990

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A lighthearted mystery starring seriously smart kids.

THE AMBROSE DECEPTION

A mysterious scholarship contest launches this middle-grade mystery.

The action begins when three Chicago middle schoolers—Bondi Johnson, a black boy; Wilf Samson, a white boy; and Melissa Burris, a white girl—are selected to compete in the Kaplin/Baron scholarship contest. No one at the three students’ schools has heard of this scholarship, and even stranger, none of these students is known for exemplary academics. In fact, they are better known for scheming, daydreaming, and schmoozing. The scholarship rules appear straightforward: untangle the clues, provide a photo of each, and win $10,000. With these guidelines, a provided cellphone, a personal driver, and a no-strings-attached debit card, each student is ready to tackle the task. Bondi attacks his clues with diligence; Melissa, though suspicious, enjoys the chase; Wilf would rather cross items off his bucket list than solve the riddles. When the hunt for clues draws to an end, Bondi, Melissa, and Wilf discover there is another mystery surrounding this scholarship and the money, leading them to band together to unravel the remaining clues and unearth the truth before the $10,000 slips out of their hands. In the tradition of The Westing Game or Chasing Vermeer, this is a plot-driven brainteaser centered on Chicago landmarks and Chicago history. The twists and turns are well-paced and believable, and transcripts of texts, emails, and letters within the chapters add dimension to the strong cast of secondary characters.

A lighthearted mystery starring seriously smart kids. (Mystery. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4847-8838-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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Will appeal to readers who appreciate action-oriented tales.

CHARLIE THORNE AND THE LOST CITY

From the Charlie Thorne series , Vol. 2

Hints left by Charles Darwin of a world-changing discovery send a 12-year-old supergenius deep into the Amazonian rainforest.

Holed up in the Galápagos Islands and hotly pursued by both the CIA and the KGB for knowing Einstein’s most deadly secret (see Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation, 2019), Charlie decodes a message about the “Greatest Treasure in Human History,” carved by Darwin almost two centuries ago on a tortoise’s plastron, and follows further coded clues first to Quito and then on into the Peruvian wilderness—with, eventually, no fewer than four sets of secret agents and treasure hunters in her wake. What might the “Greatest Treasure” be? Gibbs plays his cards close to his chest as he employs multiple point-of-view characters to spin out a chase through crowded city streets and teeming tropical forests, punctuated by big explosions and hails of gunfire, to a climactic flurry of lurid fatalities. Though—except for the paucity of high-tech gadgets and a refreshing centering of a highly competent girl hero—comparisons with the Alex Rider series are almost inevitable, the author’s fondness for overexplaining never lets the pace build up a compelling head of steam. Also, his multilingual, ethnically ambiguous protagonist is so much smarter and more competent than any of the grown-ups that none of the pickles she gets into are more than briefly suspenseful.

Will appeal to readers who appreciate action-oriented tales. (Thriller. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4381-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

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