A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
With his father in the hospital, Jason lies to his mother to keep her from flying in, lies to the police, and lies to the neighbor who is supposed to take care of him.
Violence & Scariness
A man is shot at, repeatedly hit on the head with blunt objects and knocked out, punched, injured in an explosion (which requires facial reconstruction). Another man is killed in war. Adults threaten children.
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Some mild swearing: "hell," "damn," "crap," "smartass," etc.
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Products & Purchases
Car brand mentioned.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults smoke cigarettes.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that there is some violence here, but it's mostly played lightly. In order to have the freedom to pursue the mystery, Jason lies to his mother, the police, and the neighbor who is supposed to take care of him.
Is It Any Good?
When you reach the end of the book you'll realize that the mystery is rather contrived. But by then you won't really care, because you'll have had such a good time getting there. Adding to the fun is the story-within-a-story, nicely done in the deliberately dreadful style of '40s potboiler detective fiction. Because Jason and his friend Dia have to follow clues to find each chapter, the story is revealed to them (and to the reader) gradually, with much anticipation and cliff-hangers, just as the stories that were once serialized in newspapers and magazines used to do.
As with so many books for kids these days, the editors seem to be on holiday. The book's 358 pages is about 150 pages longer than it needed to be. But Abbott's prose style goes down so effortlessly, and the story is so compelling in a don't-think-too-closely-about-it sort of way, that young readers will hardly notice. This is like one of those mystery weekends -- clever clues, no real danger, a bit of silly melodrama, and absurd but fun characters straight out of B-movie casting. Jason and his family and friends deal with real problems and are likable in a realistic way; the rest is a load of very charming hooey.
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Our Editors Recommend
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