Into the Lion's Den: The Devlin Quick Mysteries, Book 1

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Into the Lion's Den: The Devlin Quick Mysteries, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Modern-day Nancy Drew solves brainy map-theft mystery.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Tons of intriguing information about historically significant maps, explorers, literature, criminal science, the workings of the legal system, and New York City. Fascinating look at library treasures beyond the familiar bookshelves.

Positive Messages

Characters wrestle with the magnitude and morality of lies. Clear feminist message, with a clever young sleuth, a female police commissioner, and a focus on female authors. Joyful appreciation of literature, history, libraries, and the pursuit of knowledge. Some good moral lessons, too: Don't try to strike bargains with responsible adults, privilege without purpose is meaningless, and truth should never be hidden.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Devlin is raised by her strong, independent single mom and an unconventional extended family, including her feisty grandmother, a bodyguard, and a young woman rescued from a trafficking ring. Devlin has a keen sense of right and wrong, but she isn't above bending the rules in pursuit of justice: She "borrows" a stranger's skateboard, creates a fake email account to further her investigation, and stretches the truth. Devlin's mom is devoted to the police force and respected by her colleagues. She provides constant support and moral guidance for Devlin, often correcting her when she's impolite. Devlin's grandmother is smart and perceptive and insists on good manners and acting with integrity. Devlin's loyal friends speak up when they think she's making a poor choice.

Violence

Children worry about being pursued, and at one point are threatened by a knife-wielding criminal and trapped in the subway system and need to find their way out. Prominent family has constant bodyguard presence. Family friend was rescued from human-trafficking ring.

Language
Consumerism

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Into the Lion's Den is the start of a new series starring a smart (and stubborn) 12-year-old sleuth. It's also the first book for young readers by crime novelist Linda Fairstein, known for her Alexandra Cooper books for adults. Devlin Quick is a strong girl being raised by strong, independent women. Her father was killed before she was born, and her family lives under constant guard because her mother is the New York police commissioner. Devlin has a strong sense of justice, but her ends don't always justify her means. She's surrounded by friends and family who offer counsel and guidance. The nature of the crime here -- a thief stealing rare maps from priceless books -- is a springboard for fascinating glimpses into history, library collections, and literature. Children are in mild peril in the story, and two adult characters have an alcoholic drink to unwind.

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What's the story?

INTO THE LION'S DEN begins with a chase: Twelve-year-old Devlin Quick tries to follow a man her friend, Liza, suspects of cutting a page from a rare book in the library. They lose the man but stay on his trail, diving deep into the world of rare maps and the thieves who steal them. Devlin, Liza, and their friend Booker piece together clues with help from Devlin's connections at the NYPD (her mom is the commissioner). The kids find the mystery intriguing -- but it turns out to be more excitement than they bargained for.

Is it any good?

Crime novelist (and former prosecutor) Linda Fairstein makes the leap to mysteries for young readers with a smart, dogged female sleuth and a whodunit involving stolen library treasures. Into the Lion's Den introduces Devlin Quick, an updated Nancy Drew who can't let a good mystery go. There's a lot to love here, especially for kids who love books and history: Fairstein's page-turner showcases some of the treasures in the New York Public Library and revels in literary history.

Devlin is a great role model, but unfortunately she isn't very relatable. Not only is she exceptionally privileged -- from a wealthy family with powerful connections who send their kids to elite private schools -- but she doesn't sound or act like a believable 12-year-old much of the time. Her close friends provide some welcome, if slight, diversity, but one of the real pleasures here is the intimate, mutually admiring relationship between mother and daughter.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Devlin's distinction between "fiblets" and lies in Into the Lion's Den. Do you think it's OK to tell fiblets? Would you mind if someone told you a fiblet?

  • Do you often find that adults, like the librarian, don't take children seriously? How do you handle it?

  • Liza observes that Devlin's mom has created a close family for her. Are there people in your life who may not be blood relatives but who feel like family?

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For kids who love mysteries and strong girls

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