Category Archives: Mystery

#69 The Mysterious Benedict Society

“‘Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?’ When this peculiar ad appears in the newspaper, dozens of children enroll to take a series of mysterious, mind-bending tests. (And you, dear reader, can test your wits right alongside them.) But in the end just four very special children will succeed.  Their challenge: to go on a secret mission that only the most intelligent and resourceful children could complete.  To accomplish it they will have to go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where the only rule is that there are no rules.

As our heroes face physical and mental trials beyond their wildest imaginations, they have no choice but to turn to each other for support.  But with their newfound friendship at stake, will they be able to pass the most important test of all?”

(Summary taken from book flap)

The Mysterious Benedict Society was a wonderful treat of a novel with original characters, mystery and a quickly-moving plot.  Even though the 485 pages it contains might be a bit daunting, the reading goes quickly because the story catches you from the beginning.  I don’t want to compartmentalize Trenton Lee Stewart or neglect to give him credit, but his writing does remind me a bit of Lemony Snicket.  Who doesn’t love Lemony Snicket?

The best part of the novel is the camaraderie (or lack thereof) between the four main characters.  Though different in many ways, they do mesh well and are all challenged to grow in different ways.  The realization of their own personal growth made the story just touch my heart.  There is no doubt that this book should remain on the Top 100 Children’s Books list.

The Mysterious Benedict Society

by Trenton Lee Stewart

Originally published in 2007

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Posted by on November 5, 2010 in Mystery, top 100 children's books


Book Review: The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin

Will Halpin is a fat deaf high schooler.  Devon Smiley is a pony-tailed nerdy high schooler.  But when star quarterback and local millionaire’s son Pat Chambers is found dead in a mineshaft, these two boys put their heads together to solve a crime that no one expected them to solve.  Being deaf and hefty doesn’t stop Will from finding out the truth, even if it means pairing up with the most picked-on kid in his class.  Especially if it means being noticed as more than just the new deaf kid.

Author Josh Berk has created quite the character in Will Halpin, especially considering the fact that Josh is not deaf himself.  While most readers might not be able to pinpoint any discrepancies in the character, he seems very believable and his methods of communication are not outrageous.  Will and his parents communicate through sign language, Will and Devon communicate via Smartphones.  The deafness and muteness seem to be the main focus of the novel, but not so much that you get tired of the fact.

While Will’s character shines, the secondary characters do not.  The star quarterback’s girlfriend, Leigha, has a lot of potential to be developed as a character, to be understood more by the reader and to grow and change throughout the novel.  But she doesn’t, which was disappointing from my perspective.  Will’s parents are a large part of the story, but we don’t ever get a chance to know them well, just from the surface.

As for the idea of this novel being a “boy book,” I would most definitely go there.  Not only is the main character a teenage boy, but the story is about him solving a mystery.  And the novel is filled with IM conversations.  And he has a crush on the most popular girl in his class.  What more can you ask for?

As this is a debut novel from the author, I will be looking for more from him.  Any book that will appeal to teenage boys and have a dynamic main character is a great one, in my opinion.

The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin

by Josh Berk

Published by Knopf Books

February 2010

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Posted by on October 2, 2010 in Book Review, Knopf, Mystery, YA Books


Book Review: The Crossbones


If you have not read the first two books in the Skeleton Creek series and have every intention of reading them, do not read any further.  This review will contain spoilers.  Also, if you missed my review of the second book in the series, Ghost in the Machine, check it out here.

To be honest, I was a bit surprised to find that there was going to be a third book in the series.  The end of Ghost in the Machine brought resolution to the mysteries that main characters and best friends Ryan and Sarah had been investigating.  I would have been satisfied just reading the first two books.  However, I didn’t stop there and I am happy that I proceeded in reading The Crossbones.

The Crossbones brings a whole different light to the friendship of Ryan and Sarah and the mysteries of Skeleton Creek, as Sarah and her family move across the country and she is forced to travel the country in search of answers to who exactly The Crossbones are.  Ryan’s dad uses the money they gained discovering gold in the “haunted” dredge to open a fly fishing shop, of which Ryan is forced to help run.  So, once again, Ryan finds himself stuck at home while Sarah gets to seek adventure (and danger) following the clues left behind in the dredge.

While the characters of Ryan and Sarah were written well in the first two books, we find them developing even more in this third book.  As they are forced to separate, we begin to see them as individuals, Sarah pursuing a film career and Ryan’s love for fly fishing.  But the best part of the story, their solid friendship, remains throughout this book, making me a very happy reader.

Also something to be noted is how the videos change in this volume.  For those of you that aren’t familiar with the series, author Patrick Carman and Co. have turned the series into a multimedia interaction, scattering website links and passwords that send the reader to videos created by Sarah, all of which are vital to understanding the storyline and mystery of The Crossbones.  While the lack of Sarahs face in the videos was a disappointment, the change follows her character well, as she is trying to develop her filming abilities more now.

To be honest, I wasn’t as creeped out with this story as I was with the first two.  If you are looking for a lot more danger and scariness, you might be a bit disappointed.  If you are looking for mystery, however; this is the book for you.  One of the great aspects of this series is being able to follow along as Ryan and Sarah solve the mysteries that abound in Skeleton Creek.

Thanks to author Patrick Carman for the complimentary signed copy of The Crossbones!

The Crossbones (Skeleton Creek #3)

by Patrick Carman

Published by Scholastic

September 2010

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Posted by on September 26, 2010 in Book Review, Mystery, Scholastic


Book Review: Ghost in the Machine

For those of you that have not heard about Patrick Carman’s Skeleton Creek series, you are in for a real treat.  That is, if you like to be scared out of your shorts.  Ghost in the Machine in the second book in this multimedia series, written by Patrick Carman and directed by Jeffrey Townsend.  The story itself involves a small town that has a lot of history and holds a mystery deep within its past.  Teenagers and best friends Ryan and Sarah work to uncover the mystery very stealthily, even when they are banned from even speaking to each other.  You see, Sarah is a video expert and uploads videos of her discoveries to send to Ryan, all of which the reader gets to view as well.  Kind of a cool concept, huh?

Let me tell you, these books are creepy.  I had no idea what I was getting into with the first book, Skeleton Creek, and still didn’t learn my lesson with this one, as I let myself get scared silly while watching the videos and following the story in Ryan’s journal.  I would consider the books to be middle grade books, but are definitely are not for the faint of heart.

The characters that Carman has created are fairly dynamic and most definitely well-written, with the help of the videos of course.  The plot moves pretty quickly, but there are still relationships to be observed, mostly the friendship between Sarah and Ryan.  While there is not a touch of romance between the two, young lady readers will enjoy the loyalty Ryan shows to Sarah and the fact that Sarah is the instigator of all of their adventures.  Honestly, readers, the only complaint that I would make is that the online videos do isolate some readers without Internet access.  Yes, libraries do offer free Internet, but these are not the kinds of videos you watch in the library.  We might assume that all students these days have Internet access, but that is simply not true.  Props to the author, director and producers for a very innovative conceptual series.  If you have students or children that love a good mystery and can’t get away from a computer screen, put these books in their hands and they will be flipping pages like you have never seen them flip before.

Ghost in the Machine

Skeleton Creek #2

Written by Patrick Carman

Directed by Jeffrey Townsend

Published by Scholastic

October 2009