Madhattan Mystery, by John J. Bonk
From the jacket: “While their father honeymoons with his new wife, Lexi McGill and her younger brother, Kevin, are spending their summer in New York City with their actress aunt. Fitting into the hustle and bustle of city life is tough enough for these small-town kids, but when Lexi overhears a secret plot to hide Cleopatra’s famous jewels after they’re stolen from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, their low-key summer turns into a high-stakes adventure.”
My take: Twelve-year-old Lexi and her nine-year-old brother, Kevin, have come to New York City to stay with Aunt Roz, an actress, and attend an urban summer camp. Shortly after arriving at Grand Central Station, Lexi overhears two men planning what sounds like a jewel heist. Although Lexi puts the conversation out of her mind for a while, when a newspaper article reports that gems purportedly belonging to Cleopatra have been stolen from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she wonders if she really did hear the thieves.
Kim Ling Levine, an aspiring investigative journalist whose parents own the building where Aunt Roz lives in, takes the McGill kids under her wing. When camp ends early on the first day and when Lexi discovers her wallet is missing, Kim introduces them to the city where she has grown up. And when she learns that Lexi may have discovered a clue to the whereabouts of the missing jewels, she kick-starts an adventure that promises the summer will be extraordinary.
There are a couple things I really liked about this story. First, as with many New York-based books, the city stands on its own. Bonk frames the mystery of the book around the Whispering Gallery of Grand Central Station (which I’d never heard of, but which you can bet I’ll be trying the next time I’m there), but offers us additional glimpses of the train station, Central Park, Carnegie Hall, the Met, and general ambiance of a very alive location and the assortment of characters you’ll find there. Second, he gives us a modern novel that makes good use of current technology. Kevin is regularly texting on his smart phone, conversing with a friend. They do research via computer. Bonk makes use of technology well in a genre that tends to have a hard time figuring out how to do that. Finally, Lexi is a complicated character. She’s recently lost her mother and is having a tough time dealing with her father’s remarriage. But while only time can heal such wounds, a really big adventure in a really big city can do wonders for helping you along the path.
Definitely an enjoyable read for the elementary school set.