The fast-paced first installment in a new YA mystery series.
Bun, a precocious 14-year-old Australian, comes home to a horrific sight—his mother gravely injured after falling down the stairs and “a fiery red mark in the shape of a handprint stain[ing] her left cheek.” She manages to whisper in his ear: “Your mother loved you,” but then, “N-no…your mother—in the flour bin.” With the help of plucky friend Katie—who “dress[es] like a scarecrow sometimes” but “looked like she owned the world”—Bun unravels this eerie clue and stumbles upon a disturbing family secret. Eventually, an old American passport and a beautiful gold necklace confirm that he is not related to his brutish father or mean-spirited brothers. In fact, he’s not even Australian. His real name is William Thomas Buntain II, of New York City. Katie and Bun make a run for the Big Apple to search for his biological parents and piece together how Bun ended up in Australia. The first person they meet, Silas, is a smooth-talking cabdriver with a constantly changing accent and knack for arriving out of nowhere just when they’re in danger. He’s either their guardian angel or part of the expanding list of people hunting Bun for reasons he doesn’t understand. In New York City, it seems like behind every corner there is someone waiting to grab him: “There was only one thing he was quite sure about. If he was going to survive long enough to solve the mystery he had to get moving—now.” Collins creates compulsive reading through huge revelations and frequent shocking incidents, but the pace becomes exhausting after a while and makes the story feel too outlandish. Bun and Katie never stay in one place long enough for Collins to cover anything other than chase scenes and plot development; for instance, Bun seems to forget about the death of his adopted mother for about a week. Still, younger readers will be drawn in by the excellent use of suspense, well-crafted action sequences and an abrupt end, which nicely sets the stage for a sequel.
An intriguing mystery that doesn’t offer much more than thrills but should still serve as a solid base for future adventures in the series.