I missed out on the first four books in the MOGI FRANKLIN MYSTERIES, but had no problem jumping into the series with number five. Mogi has a knack for solving the unknown. It’s told in third person and begins in 1963 then flashes forward to present day.

Mogi is at a camp with his sister in northern New Mexico. He’s fourteen, which might be considered old for a main character in an MG book, but the tale has none of the expected extras you might find in YA. Also, most young readers enjoy reading about someone older.

The mystery is engaging (Just what did happen to the airplane filled with suitcases of plutonium?), and you’ll feel right in the middle of a dangerous fire interrupting the search for clues. There’s a lot of backstory to sift through but it is all written with a nice mix of present and past. The antagonist is Phil, an older teen who works as an assistant at the facility. He’s obnoxious and in real life would have been fired after his first infraction. Other than this minor objection, the story had me hooked and I’m sure it will do the same for other readers. Mogi is a winner.


Mogi Franklin and his sister Jennifer are delighted to be attending a high school science conference in New Mexico amidst a hundred thousand acres of meadows, mountains, rivers, and volcanoes far older than recorded time. But their focus quickly changes when they learn of the disappearance fifty years ago of a plane with two hundred pounds of plutonium—and of the terrorist nations vying today to find it in those same mountains.

Soon, they are engulfed in a complex web of Russian spies, government lies and deceit, an old box full of clues, and the real possibility that the shipment bound decades ago for nearby Los Alamos national laboratory is indeed hidden tantalizingly close to their conference center. Puzzling over the mystery, Mogi sets out with some friends on a backpacking trip to a remote lake. Too late they realize their mistake, as a minor forest fire suddenly explodes into the most dangerous blaze in the state’s history, trapping Mogi and the others right in its path.

They’re fighting for their lives in this fifth book of the Mogi Franklin Mysteries, and if he’s going to come up with a way out, he’d better do it fast!


  1. The story will entice young readers to spend time at an environmental science camp. A lot of cool stuff to get brain cells moving.
  2. The New Mexico setting is one every person should visit at least once in their lifetime.
  3. The dangers of forest fires are told in a bold and exciting way, not only during but after the fire passes. I was fascinated how the lake plays such an important source of survival.
  4. Mogi’s love of figuring out puzzles is one that will attract many readers with the same interest.
  5. There was no cliffhanger ending. Every plot point comes to a satisfying end even with all that went on in the fast pace book. Well, everything except finding out what Phil’s problem was…


Watching the scenery as it went by, he tried to recall more of the orientation talk, but his mind kept wandering back to the woman beside him.

The biggest theft of plutonium in history and I’m sitting next to the crook’s daughter.

Why did she think everyone was wrong?

AUTHOR Biography (From Don’s author website):
After earning a degree in physics from Midwestern State University in Texas and a master’s in computer science and electrical engineering from the University of New Mexico, he worked for Los Alamos National Laboratory for almost three decades. During his career there, Willerton was a supercomputer programmer for a number of years and a manager after that for “way too long,” and also worked on information policy and cyber-security.

He finds focusing on only one thing very difficult among such varied interests as home building, climbing Colorado’s tallest peaks, and rafting the rivers of the Southwest (including the Colorado through Grand Canyon). Willerton also has owned a handyman business for a number of years, rebuilt old cars, and made furniture in his woodshop.

He is a wanderer in both mind and body, fascinated with history and its landscape, varied peoples and their cultures, good mysteries, secrets, and seeking out treasure. Most of all, he loves the outdoors and the places he finds in the Southwest where spirits live and ghosts dance. Weaving it all together to share with readers has been the driving force of Willerton’s writing over the past twenty years.


Make a comment if you have time. I enjoy reading all of them. Click on the comments link below.

About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...always striving to reach the next peak in my life and career.
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7 Responses to THE LAKE OF FIRE

  1. I like mysteries, and this one has an interesting plot. And some middle grade books do have slightly older main characters so hopefully it works here too

  2. This sounds like a really good mystery that would grab you from beginning to end. I like that you can pick up any book and read it and find a satisfying conclusion. Great pick for teens.

  3. Pingback: To Look a Nazi in the Eye | Children's Books Heal

  4. Susan says:

    The book has “none of the expected extras you might find in YA”–great line! This book sounds intriguing! Thanks for reviewing.

  5. cleemckenzie says:

    I can relate to this story…a lot! I’ve been through three forest fires. Not because I seek them out, but because I live in a high fire area. They are quite terrifying. I think setting a mystery with a forest fire as a backdrop is brilliant.

  6. Now this sounds great! Gonna look for it right away.

  7. Running late, but glad I saw this one! I was a major mystery buff as a kid, and would love to revisit that love in a book like this. Thanks for the recommendation!

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