by John J. Bonk
Review: Twelve going on thirteen-year-old Alexandra "Lexi" McGill and her 10-year-old brother Kevin head to the Big Apple to spend the summer at City Camp while staying with their Aunt Roz, only to discover there is more excitement in the big city than they could ever have imagined in Madhattan Mystery, an adventure novel for middle grade readers by John J. Bonk.
Lexi and Kevin's mother died two years earlier, and their father has since remarried. Indeed, the reason they're spending the summer in New York City is because their father is honeymooning in Europe. The siblings really don't mind staying with their aunt; they're mostly concerned with how much fun "camp" can be in the middle of a major metropolis. Kevin, in particular, imagines it as a "dork convention". But it is Lexi who gets the first hint that their summer might be more than just whittling little Statues of Liberty out of tree branches: she overhears a plan to carry out a major heist! The very next day, "the find of the century" turns into the "crime of the century" when an assortment of jewels dating back to Cleopatra herself goes missing from the "Queen of the Nile" exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Lexi is convinced she has a clue to the theft, but who's going to believe her?
Madhattan Mystery is a non-stop sequence of scenes that keep both Lexi, Kevin and their new friends — and the reader — busy trying to figure out what's going on around them and what it all means. From this perspective, the book is incredibly entertaining. There's also a good sense of incorporating the setting into the storyline. But it should be pointed out that there is far more adventure than mystery here, that Lexi — from whose perspective the narrative is delivered — doesn't do all that much investigating as a tween amateur sleuth. There is a case to be solved, and like many good mysteries there are plenty of red herrings and dead ends, but Lexi more or less seems to stumble through it all to its solution. To be fair, much of what happens and why is intentional misdirection on the part of the author. And Lexi does have an "a-ha" moment at the end, but it's not so much being clever on her part than as if a light bulb suddenly snapped on over her head with the answer. Still, it's not likely most middle grade readers will care as they are swept into the exciting, and sometimes madcap, activities of the characters that keep the plot briskly moving forward.
As of the date of this review, no Lexile measure has been assigned to this book. The publisher lists it as appropriate for grades 3 to 6.
Acknowledgment: Bloomsbury USA provided an eARC of Madhattan Mystery for this review.
Review Copyright © 2012 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Madhattan Mystery: Manhattan, New York City
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Madhattan Mystery by John J. Bonk
Publication Date: May 2012
List Price: $16.99