Blending the offbeat humor of Lemony Snicket and insight into the preadolescent psyche la Jerry Spinelli with the captivating conundrums of Blue Balliett, the debut novel from a pseudonymous author is equal parts supernatural whodunit, suspense-filled adventure and evocative coming-of-age tale. When an unlikely pair of 11-year-old outsiders--survivalist Cassandra and aspiring stand-up comedian Max-Ernest--team up to solve a mystery surrounding the alleged death of an old magician and the strange and wondrous possessions he left behind, they unwittingly cross paths with the villainous Dr. L and his ageless accomplice Ms. Mauvais, who are obsessed with finding the magician's notebook. After the diabolical duo shows up at Cass and Max-Ernest's school, one of their classmates (a gifted artist named Benjamin) goes missing. Convinced that Benjamin has been kidnapped and faces mortal danger, Cass and Max-Ernest track the doctor and his glove-wearing sidekick to an exclusive and remote "sensorium" cum spa, where they uncover an arcane, alchemical, potentially apocalyptic bombshell. Relayed by an often witty, sometimes arch narrator, and loaded with brainteasers--anagrams, coded messages, palindromes and more--as well as such bounty as a brief and idiosyncratic history of Benito Mussolini, the definition of synesthesia and how Earl Grey tea got its name, Bosch's deliberately eccentric offering is likely to acquire a cult following. Ages 8-12. (Oct.)[Page 61]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Gr 4-6-- The pseudonymous author of this droll mystery insists that he cannot disclose the real names of its characters, or where they really live. The book is about a secret that cannot, under any circumstances, be revealed, so the author gives the story's fictional heroine and hero, two eccentric 11-year-olds, false names (think about that for a moment): Cassandra and Max-Ernest. Cass always expects disaster and carries a backpack filled with survival equipment; Max-Ernest tells jokes that nobody finds funny. They team up after discovering a secret message from a deceased magician in a box of his things delivered to Cass's substitute grandfathers' antiques shop. To learn more, they must break into the magician's house, where they find a hidden room, and, in it, his journal. They also run into a mysterious man and woman who are looking for the notebook, but Cass and Max-Ernest grab it and flee. They learn that their pursuers appear to have kidnapped several children in the past. Cass sees them kidnapping one of her classmates, but nobody believes her. Full-page illustrations incorporate chapter headings. Secret seems to want to be a blend of Lemony Snicket's books in their tendency to warn readers, Ellen Raskin's The Westing Game (Puffin, 1997) puzzles, and the oddly matched detectives of Blue Balliett's Chasing Vermeer (Scholastic, 2004). The author tries to make the mixture funny and mystifying, only partially succeeding.--Walter Minkel, New York Public Library[Page 114]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.