The pursuit of clues and the thrill of a chase draw the reader on at a great pace.

We’re naturally going for the underdogs. Shy but smart 14 year old Amy freezes whenever she’s afraid and gets tongue-tied around popular people. Her 11 year old brother Dan loves gadgets and games and any kind of distraction, but has an uncanny way with numbers and a photographic memory.

The baddies are all cousins of Amy and Dan from other lines of the family. They display an entertaining array of evil characteristics that cause no end of trouble for our heroes. Some specialise in macho thuggery, others in conniving duplicity, and others still in self-serving flattery. But Amy and Dan are not so easily deceived.

The fictional mystery plot is extensively developed, although it still allows a good amount of real history to show through. In the course of the story we learn about many famous people, cities, buildings and cultural achievements.

Riordan will motivate even reluctant readers with this exciting and fast-paced read.

Clare Cannon lives in Sydney where she is editor of The Good Reading Guide and manager of Portico Books,...