Carestio’s children’s mystery/adventure successfully updates the classic kids-solving-mysteries genre.
A gentle bridge between children’s lit and adult crime fiction, Carestio’s (Black Jack Jetty, 2010) novel follows young cousins who set out to catch a gang of robbers who have been raiding houses in their seaside resort community of Black Jack Jetty. They embark on a fast-paced, enjoyably realistic adventure that promotes good values: self-sufficiency, speaking out against bigotry, etc. Main characters Jack and Riley are unique individuals, but young readers will still be able to identify with them and vicariously enjoy the saga. While Carestio may rely on the time-honored premise of adventurous kids running across a mystery and outwitting crooks to fight crime, he gives the mystery a 21st-century gleam. New technologies and modern attitudes burnish old-fashioned situations and settings, modernizing Carestio’s boy and girl detective characters. The criminals they hunt are clearly dangerous enough for the reader to take seriously, but parents needn’t worry about young ones reading a James Ellroy–like tale by mistake. An intelligent sea gull narrates the tale with wry, amusing asides to the reader that break the fourth wall and relieve dramatic tension. The contemporary narration also references Google Earth and the recent recession. Descriptions are chatty and entertaining, dotted with anecdotes and fun facts that pique real-world curiosity and enhance the picture of the little town, the heroes and the villains. The action is almost cinematic in its structure, with many staccato beats that evoke pictures and sounds with quick snippets of description and sudden bursts of onomatopoeia. The text suffers from an unfortunate number of typographical errors but is otherwise solidly professional in presentation. Younger kids may be challenged by some of the more complex words and constructions in the text, but avid older readers could grow a bit with them.
A uniquely effective story of crime-fighting kids.