Young mystery lovers are sure to fall for Jennifer Lanthier’s new series. In her first novel, The Mystery of the Martello Tower, Lanthier has written a suspenseful story that middle school children will not be able to put down. Hazel and her genius younger brother, Ned, find themselves immersed in a mystery that involves their father, art scams and cousins they never knew they had. In the sequel, The Legend of the Lost Jewels, Hazel and Ned find themselves back at their cousins’ home for an extended Canadian Thanksgiving. Their father and older cousin develop a treasure hunt to amuse them during their vacation. Little does the family know that their search will lead them to uncover potentially dangerous secrets about their family history.
These young heroes find and trust responsible adults who help them, but there is still enough sleuthing left for them to do on their own. All the youngsters in this book are respectful, thoughtful and caring. The book is well written, using advanced vocabulary in ways that should allow readers to decipher their meaning from context. It has strong themes of family unity and forgiveness.
One important issue to note is a passing comment about suicide made by Hazel’s father in the first book. He never acts on his feelings which are explained at the resolution of the mystery, and the story ends on a happy note for all concerned. If students do read this book, parents may be able to use this as an opportunity to discuss appropriate ways of dealing with guilt and sadness and the importance of sharing these feelings with people who can help.
Jennifer Minicus is a mother and teacher currently living in Ridgewood, NJ.