After winning a puzzle contest, three young people find themselves in the middle of a dangerous treasure hunt for hidden national artifacts.
An exciting vacation turns deadly when tainted water overcomes the flight crew on their trip to Death Valley. Thankfully, Martina’s knowledge and Sam’s problem-solving abilities are enough to help them pilot their plane to safety. However, neither their chaperone, Evangeline, nor their other companion, Theo, seems surprised at the turn of events. The danger intensifies when Martina, Sam, and Theo are captured during a desert hike and forced to solve a series of puzzles that take them deep beneath the sands. Theo finally confesses that their trip’s true purpose is to find treasures left behind by the Founding Fathers of the United States before an evil descendent of Benedict Arnold does. Nonstop action is punctuated by a series of puzzles that require knowledge of trivia, strength, and creative thinking to solve. Sam is the most intriguing of the three adventurers. He is part headstrong rebel and part genius, and his quirkiness is enough to keep know-it-all Martina and bland Theo (apparently the only character of color among them) from robbing the story of life, but it’s not enough to compensate for the tired setup and plotting.
Unfortunately, this series opener feels far more formulaic than fresh. (Adventure. 9-12)