This fun mystery is a sparkling debut for author, Denis Markell. It has touches of what most young readers love: Humor, mystery, and video games.
Ted is a gamer, especially escape type games. He takes his skills to real life after his late great-uncle leaves him the contents of his apartment. His final words to Ted are: THE BOX IS ONLY THE BEGINNING. KEEP LOOKING FOR THE ANSWERS. ALWAYS GO FOR BROKE! PROMISE ME!
Ted is joined by best friend, Caleb, and a maybe new friend in spunky Isabel. Together they find clues to try and figure out just what Uncle ‘T’ had in mind, or if he’d lost his mind toward the end. There are numerous twists and puzzling clues (none of which I guessed correctly as to their meaning). It’s a non-stop ride right up to the thrilling climatic scenes.
A hint of a sequel is in the final pages. One that would surely be welcome.
PUBLICATION DATE: 2016 PAGE COUNT: 320
FULL PLOT (From Amazon) What if playing video games was prepping you to solve an incredible real-world puzzle and locate a priceless treasure?
Twelve-year-old Ted Gerson has spent most of his summer playing video games. So when his great-uncle dies and bequeaths him the all so-called treasure in his overstuffed junk shop of an apartment, Ted explores it like it’s another level to beat. And to his shock, he finds that eccentric Great-Uncle Ted actually has set the place up like a real-life escape-the-room game!
Using his specially honed skills, Ted sets off to win the greatest game he’s ever played, with help from his friends Caleb and Isabel. Together they discover that Uncle Ted’s “treasure” might be exactly that—real gold and jewels found by a Japanese American unit that served in World War II. With each puzzle Ted and his friends solve, they get closer to unraveling the mystery—but someone dangerous is hot on their heels, and he’s not about to let them get away with the fortune.
FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT: CLICK HERE TO START by Dens Markell
- Middle grade readers are introduced to a classic detective story–The Maltese Falcon– as it plays a part in solving of this new mystery.
- Isabel is a transplant from New York City to the California setting of this novel. She’s a tough cookie and smart beyond her years thanks to her travels and extensive reading. It was a nice to see a more than strong female character stand up to her new male buddies.
- Several historical events are woven into the story. The first is the treatment of Japanese in America during World War II. The second is Nazi War art, pieces that went missing after the war. History is so much fun to read when it is a part of a story like this.
- Ted narrates the story in his always perceptive way. He’s a mixed race half Japanese/ half Jewish kid with heart. He’s a friend you’d like to have in real life.
- The book has wide appeal from boys to girls and their parents. There’s something here for everyone in a witty, fun, mystery.
Finally, Caleb, master of knowing what not to say, pipes up. “Ted can burp the entire alphabet.” This is said with exactly the right mixture of pride and awe that Caleb must think will make any New York City private-school girl gasp in admiration.
But somehow, amazingly, Isabel looks less than impressed.
I realize it’s time for me to take back control of the situation.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR (From RANDOM HOUSE Publishers): This is Denis Markell’s first novel, and he took writing it very seriously, playing hours and hours worth of escape-the-room games for research (or so he told his family). He also cowrote an award-winning Off-Broadway musical revue and wrote a few musical comedies for the stage; various and sundry sitcoms; a play with Joan Rivers; an episode of Thundercats; two picture books illustrated by his wife, Melissa Iwai—The Great Stroller Adventure and Hush, Little Monster—and Poser, a memoir of his years as a male model.
(One of these things is not true.)
Make a comment below if you have time. I enjoy reading all of them.
Check the links to other Middle Grade novels over at Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.