A King's Ransom
The 39 Clues: Cahills vs. Vespers Series by Jude Watson
Review: Amy and Dan Cahill are on the hunt for the de Virga mappa mundi, a long lost world map drawn in the early 1400s, in A King's Ransom by Jude Watson, the second book in "The 39 Clues: Cahills vs. Vespers" series.
The action picks up immediately after the events of the first book in the series, The Medusa Plot, with a message from Vesper One: "Perhaps you notice that your loved ones continue to accept our Vesper hospitality. This is due to your previous treachery. They will remain our guests until you complete four more tasks." Amy and Dan are directed to Switzerland, where they discover that they must deliver the de Virga world map to Vesper One. The problem: it hasn't been seen in 80 years, having been stolen just before it was to be auctioned in 1932. One clue after another leads them first to Germany than to the Czech Republic. "Amy rubbed her forehead. Everything was jumbled together in her head. Spies and stolen art, Nazis, heroes, victims. A medieval map. How was it all connected? Was it connected at all?"
The basic plot in A King's Ransom is taken from real events surrounding the disappearance of Albertinius de Virga's drawing between the World Wars in Europe, though the exact details are not known … a perfect premise for a fictional storyline. Other real historical figures are referenced as well: the scientist Johannes Kepler and the explorer Marco Polo. In a way, there's a little too much going on here, but the connections between them are clever and entertaining, if more than a little specious.
This is a rapidly paced and fairly narrowly focused book, with most of the narrative on Amy and Dan and their adventures in Europe. There are a couple of side trips back to their home base in Attleboro and some short scenes at "location unknown", where their loved ones are being held captive. Hints of further developments are provided — Dan's pursuit of the actual "39 clues" and a mysterious message he receives at the end of this book: "Suspend judgment. The whole story is always more complex than its parts. Wait. AJT" — that will have readers eagerly anticipating the next book in the series.
(Note: Though the publisher recommends these books for readers 8 and older, the book's plot involving, in part, Nazi Germany and the expulsion of Jews from their homeland, and its Lexile measure of 570L, suggest it may be more appropriate for a somewhat older audience of readers.)
Acknowledgment: Scholastic provided a copy of A King's Ransom for this review.
Review Copyright © 2011 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
In Too Deep
Scholastic (Hardcover), November 2009
ISBN-13: 9780545060462; ISBN-10: 054506046X
Location(s) referenced in A King's Ransom: Switzerland, Germany, Czech Republic
— ♦ —
A King's Ransom by Jude Watson — The 39 Clues: Cahills vs. Vespers Series
Publication Date: December 2011
List Price: $12.99