A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
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What's the story?
Martin's type-A parents go on a month-long business trip to China over the Christmas holidays, leaving Martin in their new mansion with Elka, the maid, and his uncle Lawrence, whom he barely remembers. Happy holidays.
Uncle Lawrence turns out to be a pretty nice guy, who pays attention to Martin, is kind to Elka, and makes the household begin to feel like a family. But he has strange habits, goes out at odd hours, and seems to have secrets. When Martin's curiosity gets the better of him and he begins to snoop around, he finds a lot more than he bargained for.
Is it any good?
This interesting and mildly suspenseful story is told by Martin in the second person, an unusual technique that gives it voice and immediacy. Many kids this age and younger tend to speak and write this way, until their teachers correct them, so it lends a bit of authenticity as well, and makes one wonder why it isn't used more often in teen novels.
Veteran author Todd Strasser wisely doesn't trowel it on too thick: Uncle Lawrence is a nice guy, not the second coming, and Martin is vaguely lonely and sad, not miserable and abused. Mild is the operative word here -- the story is mildly suspenseful, Martin's voice is mildly sardonic, and the characters are all painted in pastel shades. Thus the strength of Martin's connection to Lawrence that is revealed near the end comes a bit out of left field. But the story flows smoothly and keeps the reader involved to the end.