Ten-year-old Stuart Horten fully expects his summer to be duller than dull. Moving to Beeton at the end of the school year means that he will have no friends and therefore nothing to do. His mother works at the hospital all day, and his crossword puzzle writing father spends his days with his nose buried in books. To make matters worse, the identical triplets next door, April, May and June, have a knack for annoying him with their nosey questions. Desperate to escape their stalking, Stuart ducks into an old phone booth. To his surprise, the phone rings: it is the Beeton Public Library with a book for Mr. Horten. How did they know he was in the phone booth? How did the phone ring with a severed receiver cord?!
Stuart has never believed in magic, but now he is beginning to think that his great-uncle Tony Horten, magician extraordinaire, had a plan to send him on an exciting adventure. Stuart collects the book at the library and finds himself tracking a series of clues planted by his uncle decades ago, all around the town of Beeton. Stuart, however, is not the only person looking for clues. Jeannie, a greedy businesswoman/politician hopes to find Horten’s stash of original magical tricks first.
Lissa Evanss fast-paced mystery is just intricate enough to keep middle grade readers’ attention without becoming too complicated. Stuart’s sleuthing introduces him to a variety of Beeton residents as well as a fascinating combination of antiquated but interesting gadgets from days gone by. He also learns quite a bit of vocabulary from his lexicon oriented father. Readers may find the injection of above grade level words somewhat forced, but it does not detract from the story. Engaging, but simple, this book is ideal for summer reading.
Jennifer Minicus is a mother and teacher currently living in Ridgewood, NJ.