A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What 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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
When the grandmother he has never met dies, Jason joins his father in Florida for the funeral and to pack up her house. After his father falls from a ladder and is hospitalized, Jason finds a series of clues on postcards that lead him to chapters of a '40s noir mystery story that may be about his grandmother and her strange and mysterious past. To add to the intrigue, someone seems to be following 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.