In Zeichner’s debut novel for young readers, the Jinson twins must use science to solve a mystery involving buried treasure after they take a summer job.
Debbie and Joe Jinson, 12-year-old twins, take a summer job helping Mrs. Gray clean out her basement. Mrs. Gray is out of money unless she can locate the cache of gold coins her dead sea-captain husband promised her. As Debbie and Joe sort through the basement, they uncover a map the captain may have left depicting the location of the treasure, pinpointed by a cryptic poem. Aided by Mr. Benjamin, an intellectual who runs the local Resource Recovery and Recycling Center (not to be confused with a junkyard), haunted by a strange old man who follows the twins in his truck and dogged by three 14-year-olds bent on taking all the local summer jobs for themselves, the Jinson twins set out to decipher the poem and find the lost coins. Although the premise of treasure buried by a sea captain is familiar, the method the twins must use to uncover the chest’s location adds an enjoyably fresh element by involving scientific research. As with any adult problem solved by children, the twins must turn to grown-ups at times, but as with any good scientific inquiry and any good mystery novel, the twins themselves remain the primary investigators. Despite an implausible final encounter with the older kids and an unrealistic action sequence with the old man who stalks the twins, the novel is classic kid mystery at its best. Only the most discerning young reader will be disturbed by those incongruities that otherwise don’t mar a smooth, fast-paced narrative. Also notable is the lack of parental involvement, a common theme in contemporary novels for young readers, explained in this case by the mother’s guiding principles of teaching her children independence—and, in this case, scientific persistence.
Zeichner delivers a classic mystery that makes up for its conventional plot with a pair of engaging protagonists.