Sunblock protects Anglo pallor from the unrelenting Western sun, but it doesn’t do much for fending off the Combination’s villainy.
Darkus has turned his back on the detecting life after losing his canine companion in the previous book (K-9, 2015) and now occupies himself with social media and (gasp) parties. He’s forced back into the family business when beloved housekeeper Bogna is kidnapped by the Combination. On a Bogna-recovery mission, Darkus, father Alan, and stepsister Tilly travel from London to Las Vegas via an eventful series of detours. Tragedy has shaped their lives, and as they follow a trail of Combination crumbs, they could be galloping headlong into more. This episode has more of a cinematic Fleming flavor than the earlier Conan Doyle–esque adventures: there are gadgets galore, action-filled brushes with death, and show-stopping settings. Though cast familiars return, there’s the welcome, albeit brief, addition of a Knightley & Son doppelgänger—African-American father-and-son investigators in Los Angeles. With more adults populating the book than teens, it’s Darkus and Tilly who really keep the pages turning. Though it’s a mission to save Bogna and cripple the Combination, the crux of Darkus’ purpose is to reunite his parents, while Tilly seeks the truth behind her mother’s death—an answer for which neither she nor Darkus is prepared.
A totally satisfying third round of bonding à la Knightley (you know, with kidnapping, sleuthing, disguises, and murder). (Mystery. 10-14)