This lightweight whodunit stays puzzling through trickery. Brian Bain just wants to stay out of trouble for a little while, for since his last adventure in the chemistry lab he’s been grounded. However, when a fellow student is kidnapped, Brian teams up with student journalist Roni to solve the mystery. Alicia, the kidnapped girl, was the victim of a brutal mugging the week before—could her disappearance be connected to the beating? Brian and Roni investigate ex-boyfriends, absent-minded adults and an island full of frightening but entertaining squatters. A reader who can see through the mystery’s misdirection might solve the puzzle before Brian and Roni. A frustratingly casual treatment of child abuse mars this venture, however; a woman who’s known to be responsible for a child’s vicious beating strikes that child in front of the police and is not immediately restrained or ever arrested. If the story contained any condemnation of this behavior, perhaps it wouldn’t be so jarring, but the characters seem more willing to condemn potential male abusers than actual female ones. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: May 18, 2006

ISBN: 0-399-24377-1

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Sleuth/Penguin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2006

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A promising SF/fantasy/mystery blend, Schmid’s debut features an intrepid 12-year-old who picks up her parents’ trail a year after they vanish at an archeological dig on planet Lindos. That trail leads Violynne into brushes with the autocratic planetary Arbiter and with several sorts of enigmatic aliens, then into a dramatic flight that culminates in the discovery of an ancient time machine deep underground. As Schmid plays fast and loose with physical laws (specifically a moon that doesn’t affect the orbits of any of its near neighbors, despite having the gravity well of a black hole), this isn’t pure SF, but she creates a credible setting and keeps the pace up. She also stirs in suspense and political intrigue, provides Violynne with a good stock of native intelligence, plus a pair of colorful secret agents to give her a hand at need, and finishes off with a dramatic multiple rescue. This stands alone but could engender sequels—which would be a good thing, as well-crafted interstellar tales for this audience are rare. (Science fiction/fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: May 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-399-24460-5

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2008

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Intriguing clues and danger signs abound in a mystery in which a strong, upbeat teenager has every reason to be down, but pushes through her mourning and guilt to detect her way through to the finish. An invisible threat lurks in the small retirement community where 13-year-old Crystal and her mother are lovingly saying goodbye in their hearts to their beloved Gram, who has passed away. But there is much more on Crystal’s mind than sorting through and boxing up belongings, so she is not aware of a hidden menace; her nightmares point to her as the one responsible for the car accident in which her father died and she lost the use of her legs. Unexpectedly, a welcome opportunity for a prestigious art show comes to Crystal’s mother, a prospect beneficial to their household’s struggling financial situation, but leaving Crystal in the care of a neighbor, Zola, and an older cousin just at the peril’s peak. Zola suddenly disappears on the day she is to take responsibility for Crystal’s care, and the various normal explanations for Zola’s disappearance that Mitchell (Gullywasher Gulch, 2002, etc.) makes probable, intensify the plot. The balance between the emotional upheavals, attempts to carry on good lives, the inevitable guilt, and the process of growing up intertwines with the mystery of Zola’s safety and whereabouts. Crystal’s efforts in finding the truth about Zola become self-restoring, but are far riskier than either she or her cousin feared. Run-of-the-mill mystery writing for fans of the simple solution. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-59078-070-1

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2003

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