Mysteries


Mysteries

   It was Colonel Mustard in the Library (of course, we're book people here!), with the rope! Who isn't drawn in by a good mystery? Readers of all ages enjoy them, starting with the youngest trying to find their friend Spot in Eric Hill's wonderful lift-the-flap books. Check below for some of our favorites.

Contributor: Emily Griffin & Peg Glisson

Reviews

Atlantis: The Search for the Lost City
Mary-Jane Knight

One of the oldest mysteries in the world is the legend of Atlantis. Combine that legend with a code wheel and full-color pages, and you have a book that will attract lovers of mystery. Amy James is stowing away on the Neptune with a bag of mementos her father left behind. His search for Atlantis was the last thing he ever did, and Amy is determined to finish his work. She is soon discovered, but fortunately the captain of the Neptune is also eager to search for Atlantis. The two join forces and, through many adventures, come closer than anyone ever has to the Lost City. Amy's story alternates with pages detailing what is known about Atlantis, tips for code breaking, and the history of sea voyages. Altogether there is a lot here to be learned, but the frequent changes between first person and exposition is distracting. Some readers may have difficulty maintaining their attention through the crowded pages and many codes, but readers who enjoy being active in their reading will find much to amuse them. The puzzles are varied, with codes, riddles, and mazes, but one puzzle that involved correctly translating something Amy's father had mistranslated never shows his mistranslation in the text. This book would be fun shared in a classroom setting a few pages at a time, reading the story and history sections, and giving the children a chance to solve the puzzles on their own or in groups. 2012, Kingfisher/Macmillan Children's Books, Ages 8 to 12, $16.99. Jennifer Lehmann (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 9780753466803

Confessions of a Murder Suspect
James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Tandoori (Tandy) Angel is one of four extraordinary children of a rich and eccentric pharmaceutical company king. When her parents are found dead in their beds, Tandy is quick to begin investigating the murder, but the police quickly pin her and her siblings as prime suspects. All of the children have peculiar personalities and remarkable abilities, as a result of their nontraditional upbringing. The Angel parents demanded perfection from their children, and prescribed herbal concoctions promising the benefits of typical vitamin supplements. Only after their death, Tandy discovers that the pills were not merely supplements. Her intensely talented family was a result of a human performance drug experiment, led by her parents. As the mystery unravels, Tandy realizes that any of her family members could have potentially murdered the Angel parents. As she weans herself off of the medication she has taken all of her life, Tandy's emotions run stronger and memories become clearer as she learns more about the motives of her parents, and possible motives of the murderer. Patterson and Paetro deliver a fast-paced mystery. The unconventional characters add tension and excitement to the story, as each child reacts to the murders in a different way. Tandy's attempts to uncover her own past and piece together her family's history are muddled at first, and become clearer as she comes off of the drugs and starts to fruitfully solve the mystery. Recommended for middle school fans of realistic fiction/action thrillers, or lovers of books with strong female protagonists. 2012, Little Brown/Hachette, Ages 11 to 15, $19.99. Reviewer: Mandy R. Simon (VOYA, October 2012 (Vol. 35, No. 4)).
ISBN: 9780316206983

The Dark Unwinding
Sharon Cameron

In order to protect the family fortune, seventeen-year-old Katharine Tulman is sent to her Uncle's Victorian estate to prove that he is insane. When she arrives, she encounters a motley group, including the stern housekeeper Mrs. Jefferies, the brooding apprentice Lane, and the mute boy Davy who carries a rabbit everywhere. She discovers that her eccentric Uncle has created an entire, self-sufficient village, with 300 people rescued from the London workhouses. The estate has even fashioned its own gasworks in order to support her child-like Uncle's "playtimes," where he creates fantastic toys like a spinning dragon, lifelike recreations of people, and a fish that holds its course and depth. Katharine must decide whether to reveal her Uncle's odd behavior or save the lives of everyone in the village. Along the way, she falls in love, has fun, and may be having a change of heart, but how will she secure her own financial future? What is more, she has started having inexplicable fits, memory loss, and dangerous night-time wanderings that may just mean she is going crazy herself. Altogether, Cameron's debut novel is as well-crafted and mysterious as one of the automata toys found within its pages. The conflict becomes increasingly layered while the tension-filled pages refuse to drag. Within Cameron's expert use of language, the setting and characters truly shine. Furthermore, the mystery's clues are not too telegraphed and the book's ending ties everything together magically in gratifying and unexpected ways. Wuthering Heights meets steampunk, this story is satisfying to the last page and is sure to leave teen readers eager for a sequel. Highly recommended for both teens and adults, Cameron's book is a real treat for anyone interested in Victorian England, mysteries, romance, gothic stories, oddities, subterfuge, steampunk, or just an all-around excellent read. 2012, Scholastic, Ages 12 up, $17.99. Reviewer: Jennifer Greene (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 9780545327862

Double Vision
F.T. Bradley

Move over "Hardy Boys" because there is a new mystery solving team on the rise. Twelve-year-old Lincoln Baker is not the typical super-agent. He likes to joke around and he has a tendency to get in trouble especially while on school field trips. It is this tendency to get in trouble that leads two government agents to his front door. After watching a Youtube video of Lincoln freeing a number of chickens while on a class field trip, Agent Stark and Agent Fullerton realize that Lincoln looks just like their missing agent Benjamin Green. In order to avoid a million dollar law suit and an expulsion from school, Lincoln agrees to play the part of Benjamin Green. He is whisked away to Paris where he needs to play the part of Benjamin Green for a simple trade. The problem is that there is a lot more going on than meets the eye. He ends up running through the streets of Paris going to various landmarks such as the Arc de Triomphe, Montmartre, and the Louvre. The goal is to decipher the codes and find the "evil" copy of the Mona Lisa. The novel is similar to Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code but with a twelve year old protagonist. There are just as many twists and turns in the plot that leaves the reader wondering who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. The protagonist is easy to like and is relatable as he is open and honest with the reader. The entire story is riddled with foreshadowing and action to entice the reader to read on. We are also left with the knowledge that this is only the beginning of a series of adventures where Lincoln Baker and Benjamin Green team up to solve mysteries and stop crime. 2012, Harper/HarperCollins, Ages 8 to 12, $16.99. Reviewer: Sarah Raymond (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 9780062104373

The Humming Room
Ellen Potter

After the violent death of her drug dealer parents, Roo Fanshaw is sent to live with her wealthy and eccentric uncle on the remote Cough Rock Island in upstate New York. At first her new home seems strange compared to her life full of instability and neglect, and does nothing to lessen her instinct to hide. Small, quiet, and stubborn, Roo prefers to listen to the earth and would rather hide in caves than be around people. But slowly she grows attached to the offbeat characters that make up her new world. Secrets surround Cough Rock Island and the Fanshaw family, giving Roo a mystery to investigate. Her discovery of a garden, a friend, and a cousin draws Roo out of her shell and she ends up flourishing in her new surroundings. A novel closely inspired by The Secret Garden, Potter, who wrote The Kneebone Boy, once again produces a smart, thoughtful, and captivating story. Though a modern tale this tribute to the classic still has a timeless feel. 2012, Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan, Ages 9 to 12, $16.99. Reviewer: Emily Griffin (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 9780312644383

Judy Moody's Mini-Mysteries and Other Sneaky Stuff for Super Sleuths
Megan McDonald
Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

Readers who are familiar with and enjoy the "Judy Moody" detective stories will welcome this latest addition to the series. Rather than a typical book with a plot, this is more of a workbook filled with all sorts of activities designed to help the budding detective hone her skills. Included in the book are a brief introduction to Judy and her friends; instructions about how to make your own detective kit and notebook; a detective's dictionary; a number of narrative mini-mysteries; and lots of riddles, puzzles, and brain teasers. All of the answers to the quizzes are given, and young readers will be able to figure out most of the problems by themselves. Some riddles, however, may require the help of an adult, thereby providing a good opportunity for interaction between children and their parents. Indeed, this book may be more fun and effective if a few children, or some children and adults, work together to solve the mysteries. Judy Moody, the heroine of this series, is a big fan of the "Nancy Drew" mysteries, and there are quite a few references to that famous female sleuth, as well as facts about the "Nancy Drew" authors and books. While this book can stand alone as a good example of an activity book, readers who have read other "Judy Moody" books will have a better appreciation of the characters, incidents, and puzzles contained in this one. 2012, Candlewick Press, Ages 6 to 9, $4.99. Reviewer: Leona Illig (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 9780763659417

Kill You Last
Todd Strasser

Eighteen-year-old Shelby Sloan is an upper middle class high school senior living with her mom and photographer dad. Three girls who were clients at her dad's photography studio are reported missing and when he is considered the prime suspect, her life starts to unravel. Then Shelby discovers that not only was her dad running a modeling scam to make money but also hitting on some of the girls. This proves particularly devastating since Shelby has always been closer to her dad than to her mom. Even when she is hounded by the press and ostracized by her classmates, her best friend Roman stands by her. In order to prove her dad's innocence she joins forces with Whit, a journalism student at nearby Sarah Lawrence College. The surprise ending is a bit of a shocker but seems logical as the story evolves. Writing for a high school audience, Strasser refers to casual teen sex, beer-drinking and high school relationships. The high school student dialogue rings true and although most teens this age will not have experienced the lifestyle, they will enjoy reading about it. The story will most likely appeal to female readers. This title concludes the "thrill"-ogy that began with Wish You Were Dead and Blood on My Hands. 2011, Egmont USA, Ages 15 up, $16.99. Reviewer: Michele Lauer-Bader (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 9781606840245

Mountain Top Mystery
Gertrude Chandler Warner
Adapted by Joeming Dunn
Illustrated by Ben Dunn

The Boxcar children-orphans Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny Alden-are excited about their vacation with their Grandfather, a trip that includes a climb up Old Flat Top, a beautiful mountain. But when a rockslide occurs, the children get a glimpse of a mysterious cave; and later that night, while waiting for rescue, they spy a tiny light, far down in the woods. The cave and the light lead them to a Native American woman named Lovan, who tells them about a legendary treasure hidden in a cave on the mountain. With the help of an expert explorer, as well as Lovan's long-lost grandnephew, the Alden children climb the mountain again, this time to solve the riddle of the treasure in the mountain cave. Part of "The Boxcar Children Graphic Novels" series, this book faithfully follows the author's original story. The adapter has done an admirable job selecting the plot details, and the dialog and tone echo the original. The illustrator uses both landscape and portrait panels, and this serves to make the artwork more interesting. The original Boxcar stories by Gertrude Chandler Warner have long been loved by children and adults alike for their portrayal of honest, authentic characters. The author, who died in 1979, would probably have been pleased to see her stories transferred so thoughtfully, and with so much care, to the modern medium of the graphic novel. 2010, Albert Whitman & Company, Ages 8 to 10, $6.99. Reviewer: Leona Illig (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 9780807552940

Nancy Clancy, Super Sleuth
Jane O'Connor
Illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser

Fancy Nancy takes up detective work in this early chapter book featuring the popular picture book character. When Nancy and her best friend, Bree, overhear neighbors Wanda and Rhonda arguing about a secret, the case is afoot. Rhonda is clearly keeping something from Nancy, but attempts at drawing a confession fail, despite Nancy's excellent interrogation skills. Meanwhile, at school, a marble belonging to Nancy's teacher disappears during Family Day. Could someone have stolen it? Though everyone is a suspect, Nancy and Bree struggle to believe any of their classmates could be a thief. After a scattering of red herrings, Nancy follows a plausible trail of clues to resolve both mysteries, and learns about forgiveness and judging others along the way. Nancy and Bree embrace all the trappings of good detectives, from communicating via code to wearing (fancy) trench coats, and even using fingerprints and photo evidence to solve the two cases. Nancy's love of official sleuth vocabulary, like "motive" and "observant," creates plenty of opportunities for introducing and defining new words. Secondary characters, from classmates to parents, are adequately lifelike, and O'Connor's depiction of classroom and sibling dynamics rings true. Young readers will have no trouble following the clues, and particularly astute mystery fans may even be able to solve the crimes themselves. At just over one hundred pages, with a larger type and Glasser's black and white illustrations spread throughout, this title is ideal for fans of the "Fancy Nancy" series and other aspiring Nancy Drews who are reading independently but not yet ready for longer chapter books. 2012, Harper/HarperCollins Publishers, Ages 6 to 8, $9.99. Reviewer: Chelsea Couillard-Smith (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 9780062082930

Poison Most Vial: A Mystery
Benedict Carey

Ruby Rose's father works at a local university where he cleans the laboratories. When he is accused of murder, Ruby and her best friend Rex set out to discover what really happened. They enlist the help of a woman who lives in their apartment complex and who they know only as the woman who peers out at them from her window. Ruby has heard that the "window lady" used to be a crime fighter and that is good enough for her. Mrs. Whitmore has indeed worked as a crime investigator and knows just how to direct the children in their quest. She also has friends in the investigative labs and does some of her own research into the murder of Dr. V.S. Ramachandran, who ran the research lab at the university. Young middle school readers will be introduced to the detective genre with this mystery and the adventures of two friends as they investigate the graduate students, the vials of toxins in the lab and finally the bit of science that helps them solve the case. There is an interesting multicultural component as Rex's voice reflects the Caribbean origins of his family. Following in the tradition of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, these are contemporary urban detectives working together to clear Mr. Rose's name. 2012, Amulet Books/Abrams, Ages 9 to 13, $16.95. Reviewer: Janis Flint-Ferguson (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 9781419700316

Rebel Fire
Andrew Lane

Bad guys shoot at fourteen-year-old Sherlock Scott Holmes, lock him up, and literally toss him to vicious beasts in this account of the super sleuth as a teen. This book is the second in the "Sherlock Holmes: The Legend Begins" series. It offers tension, thrills and chills while Sherlock attempts to solve the mystery of how John Wilkes Booth remains alive and free and becomes a figure head for Southern sympathizers who plan to set up a new regime in Canada. Sidekicks Matty and Virginia, Sherlock's love interest, work with him to solve the mystery. Nice dialogue exchanges between the three keep the pace moving and add to the tale's interest. In addition to a goodmystery, this YA novel delves into logic, science, and mathematics, all of which Sherlock finds necessary to match wits with mature thinking adults. It helps readers see the necessity of learning many things in order to make intelligent decisions. Historic events are woven into the well-written fabric of the story. This is an excellent read for teens interested in mystery, history, and rousing adventures, which permeate the text. The series is the first teen series endorsed by the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Estate. 2011, Farrar Straus Giroux/Macmillan, Ages 14 up, $16.99. Reviewer: Nancy Garhan Attebury (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 9780374387686

Ripper
Stefan Petrucha

When Ellis Orphanage in 1895 New York moves to a more modern building, fourteen-year-old Carver Young is among the older children who are placed out in families or work. Carver lands the placement of his dreams, apprentice to eccentric Albert Hawking, who lives at the asylum on Blackwell's Island (the better to study the criminal mind) and helps run the New Pinkertons, an offshoot of the original detective agency that now operates from an underground complex. Hawking and his partner Septimus Tudd have done their homework, and they realize before Carver does that the boy's father is likely Jack the Ripper, who has moved across the ocean to shadow the son he recently discovered. As the truth of his parentage becomes ever more obvious to Carver, he adds his own detection skills to those of the New York Police under commissioner Theodore Roosevelt, the New Pinkertons, and New York Times reporters as they attempt to close in on the killer, who is once again plying his murderous trade, this time among New York society ladies. The crime drama central to this novel is enhanced by the gadget-rich labors of the New Pinkertons, the overlapping and often oppositional efforts of parties hot on the Ripper's trail, and Carver's own self-doubts as he considers what it might mean to be the son of a notorious murderer. The Ripper's butchery is largely more implied than pointedly described, and there's far more action and strategy than gore to be had. Still, the air is thick with an atmosphere of evil, and readers who are just making the acquaintance of the mass murderer will doubtless be lured on to speculation about Ripper's identity in the true-crime shelves. 2012, Philomel, Grades 7 to 10, $17.99. Reviewer: Elizabeth Bush (The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, April 2012 (Vol. 65, No. 8)).
ISBN: 9780399255243

You Don't Have a Clue: Latino Mystery Stories for Teens
Sarah Cortez

This entertaining collection of short stories starts with "No Soy Loco," about a kid who's been hearing voices since he was hit in the head with a baseball. The voices keep saying words he doesn't understand. But the messages are not meant for him. The psychiatrist he is sent to turns out to be an alien on the run from people on his home planet, and Victor's injury somehow allows him to hear a warning call being transmitted by the alien police. Victor saves the day and proves, at least to himself, that he is not crazy. Another story tells of a teen's plot to murder Pancho Villa as revenge for his mother's murder. Yet another tells of girl who's been kidnapped to be forced into prostitution, but escapes with the help of an elderly neighbor. One story has to do with a boy's inability to differentiate faces, which causes him to be arrested for murder. Fortunately, his friend convinces him to tell the police what really happened. The stories, amply sprinkled with Spanish words, are well-told. 2011, Piñata Books/Arte Público Press, Ages 14 up, $16.95. Reviewer: Sarah Maury Swan (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 9781558856929

Updated 01/01/13

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