Both an excellent read and an excellent puzzle.

READ REVIEW

THE JIGSAW JUNGLE

Levine sends her readers on a quest for buried treasure and buried truths.

In 2015, Claudia Dalton’s life is suddenly turned upside down. On the last day of school, Claudia’s father, Jeff, sends a short email to his family saying that he will be home late—and then does not return. A few days later, Claudia’s mother, Jennifer, attends a conference in Switzerland, and Claudia stays with her recently widowed and still grieving paternal grandfather, Walter. While with Walter, Claudia frequently emails her father and finally receives an unlikely answer: a puzzle piece with a cryptic message telling her to find a time capsule buried in Jeff’s youth. With the help of her new friend, budding filmmaker Luis, Claudia begins a quest to find the time capsule and the secret that has suddenly separated her family. Using emails, text messages, telephone transcripts, Luis’ video footage, and other artifacts, Levine has created a masterwork of mystery that slowly unravels as Claudia learns more about her father’s life. Astute readers may guess what life-changing secret drove Jeff away from his family, but even if they do, they’ll keep reading to find out how this saga ultimately ends. The biggest trick is Levine’s ability to keep the characters both likable and realistic—this holds especially true for Jeff’s disappearing act and Jennifer’s slow-burn emotional journey.

Both an excellent read and an excellent puzzle. (Mystery. 9-12)

Pub Date: June 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-17452-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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Written in workhorse prose, it’s an amiable enough read.

ALI CROSS

The prolific king of the beach read is back with an intergenerational mystery for the 9-to-12-year-old set.

Ali Cross, the son of Patterson’s most famous creation, African American homicide detective Alex Cross, is “starting to think the worst might have happened” to his mixed-race friend Gabriel “Gabe” Qualls, who disappeared on Dec. 21 and hasn’t been heard from as of Christmas Eve, when the book opens. Ali offers an impromptu prayer for Gabe at the pre-holiday service at his all-black church as well as an impromptu press conference outside of it as journalists and paparazzi confront Alex about his alleged coma-inducing assault of a murder suspect’s father. Then someone robs the Crosses’ home that night along with four other homes; the Crosses’ Christmas gifts are stolen. Ali, obsessed with finding Gabe and feeling that these events will distract his dad and the police from searching for him, starts his own investigation—complete with looking at some contraband footage of Gabe’s unusually loaded backpack obtained by Ali’s stepmother, also a cop—and questioning his school and gaming pals, a diverse group. Writing in Ali’s voice with occasional cutaways to third-person chapters that follow Alex, Patterson sprinkles the narrative with pop-culture references even as he takes readers through the detective process.

Written in workhorse prose, it’s an amiable enough read. (Mystery. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-53041-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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SPACE CASE

From the Moon Base Alpha series , Vol. 1

When Dr. Holtz’s body is discovered just outside the lunar colony, everyone assumes he made a mistake putting on his spacesuit—but 12-year-old Dashiell “Dash” Gibson has reason to believe this was no accident.

Earth’s first space base has been a living hell for Dash. There’s not much to do on the moon besides schoolwork and virtual-reality gaming, and there’s only a handful of kids his age up there with him. The chance to solve a murder is exactly the type of excitement Dash needs. As clues are found and secrets are uncovered, Dash comes to understand that some of the base’s residents aren’t what they seem to be. With a small cast of characters supplying an excellent variety of suspects, Gibbs creates the best kind of “murder on a train” mystery. The genius, however, is putting the train in space. Closed quarters and techno–mumbo-jumbo add delightful color to the proceedings. Thankfully, the author doesn’t let the high-concept setting overshadow the novel’s mystery. The whodunit is smartly paced and intricately plotted. Best of all, the reveal is actually worth all the buildup. Thrillers too often fly off the rails in their final moments, but the author’s steady hand keeps everything here on track.

Fully absorbing. (Mystery. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-9486-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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