A bomb threat leads to early school dismissal and leaves Stephen entangled in intrigue.
Stephen likes to count his mistakes and has a tendency to read too much into things. These qualities don’t make him a favorite of his grade-seven classmates, but they do make him especially fit to solve a crime involving a rogue Volkswagen Beetle and a bomb threat. Additionally, Stephen has just been entrusted with his first dog-walking job. The boisterous dogs, Ping and Pong, are mismatched in size, hard to control, and irresistible. When Stephen is an unwitting witness to a serious incident, the dogs become a target of threats. Stephen begrudgingly allows his classmate Renée, the only other student as brainy and perhaps less popular than he, to assist him in figuring out the culprit and protecting the pups. Counting his mistakes throughout the day as a kind of deductive reasoning, Stephen gradually arrives at the culprit from among the likely suspects of the all-white cast of characters. Stephen is a slightly older Encyclopedia Brown plunked into a modern-day, unsavory scenario. The school violence is treated oddly lightly, so the balance of tone versus content is off-kilter. The descriptions of canine exuberance, however, are delightful and the best parts of this quick read and first in a promised mystery series.
Readers who can get past the tonal quibbles will appreciate seeing how this class geek discovers that some of his brainy quirks make him a fine budding sleuth. (Mystery. 9-12)