In this middle-grade novel, a boy helps his grandfather solve a mystery involving stolen Italian cheeses while on a cruise.
It’s the first day of summer vacation, and 12-year-old Jake Wheeler has plans to ride his new bike at the BMX course. But it turns out that he’ll have to wait, because Jake’s grandfather, “a world-renowned detective,” has to work on a case involving cheese theft for the Italian police. He can’t accompany Jake’s grandmother on their Mediterranean trip, so Jake’s mother volunteers the boy as a traveling companion. After leaving Montreal, Jake and his grandma sail on the cruise ship Canberra, due to stop in “Spain, Israel, Cyprus, Greece, and Gibraltar.” Also on the trip is his second cousin Millie, a know-it-all English girl with a titled father. Jake must admit that the ship and his room are cool even if Millie is annoying and Granny limits his smartphone “screen time.” However, Jake finds real excitement when he stumbles onto clues related to his grandfather’s case. After Grandpa learns that there’s stolen cheese aboard ship (from Granny’s photo of a wine-and-cheese event), he thrills Jake by asking him to help him investigate: “keep your eyes and ears open.” While playing tourist at beautiful locations, Jake, with Millie’s help, tracks down clues and tries to avoid bad guys. In her often humorous series starter, debut author Malmqvist depends too much on coincidences; it’s hard to believe that Grandpa’s stolen-cheese investigation happens to intersect perfectly with Jake’s vacation. The young sleuth also conveniently chances upon the most important clues; for example, he just happens to see an important crate being delivered, is woken by a voice beneath his window, and spots a cellphone on a cheese table. Granny’s characterization also falters; she’s said to be “quirky” and has bright-pink streaks in her silver hair, but she often acts as a wet blanket, presumably to introduce plot obstacles. Nevertheless, Jake is intelligent, bold, and resourceful, and the Mediterranean ports of call make an engaging backdrop for the mystery.
An uneven kid-detective tale with an appealing setting.