Sunday, May 20, 2012

Review: Madhattan Mystery

Madhattan Mystery
By John J. Bonk
Expected publication May 22, 2012 by Walker & Company

Lexi is not exactly thrilled about spending the summer in new York City with her younger brother and her Aunt Roz while her dad and his new wife go on their honeymoon. But things get even worse when Lexi thinks she overhears a plot to steal Cleopatra's jewels from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And then the jewels actually go missing. Can Lexi solve the crime?

I picked this up at Midwinter because I thought it sounded like a fun middle-grade mystery, which I think is a really popular genre for tween readers. However, this book didn't quite deliver. All during my reading of the book, I got the feeling that it wanted to be in the vein of Chasing Vermeer - after all, a lot of this mystery depends on coincidences and seeing events in a different light. But, ultimately, I don't think this book was as successful in achieving the charm that made Chasing Vermeer a fun read for me (review forthcoming). I didn't connect with the characters at all - I guess I didn't feel like they were individualized enough. I also found something a bit off about them. Often, it felt like they were all trying a little too hard which, I suppose, indicates that perhaps the author was trying too hard. They didn't seem very realistic, either - I don't really believe kids act like this. Additionally, the action felt very unevenly plotted. At times, the pace is frenetic and difficult to keep up with. At other times, it seems like nothing very important is happening and I found myself skimming pages (I almost never do this). And, while this is supposed to be a mystery about the disappearance of Cleopatra's jewels, that plot seems to disappear to the background among the many other plots that are happening through the book. There are some bits here and there that show promise - Lexi's relationship with her brother, which at first seems very straightforward but is actually quite complicated, provided a dynamic different than what most children's books show, and the subplot about the homeless in New York City was an interesting, albeit quite simplified, addition. In the end, though, I found this book a bit too all over the place. I'd be interested to see how kids feel about it, though.

Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.

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