Cover illustration © Iacopo Bruno
This is the third book in the Mister Max trilogy, and I’ve enjoyed all of them. Young Max Starling has been on his own since his parents were kidnapped in the first book, and in this one he and his friends and supporters are finally ready to journey to South America to try to rescue them. Since finding himself alone except for his grandmother and friends, Max has developed his own business solving mysteries. He calls himself “Mister Max, Solutioneer,” and his clients range from school-children to his town Mayor and important and wealthy families. No mystery has proved as challenging as the one of his missing parents, but Max is closing in on it. They’ve surfaced as the apparent King and Queen of the very small South American country of Andesia. Clearly the local General is really in charge, and keeping the theatrical actor couple on hand for show. How to get them back? Max’s first big hurdle is meeting the King of his own country so he can set up an official delegation to visit Andesia. Then the delegation, actually all Max’s friends and his grandmother, must travel across the sea and over rough mountain terrain to reach the remote capital. If they succeed, there’s no telling what new hurdles will await them there, far from any further help.
Cynthia Voigt has developed great characters and a clever coming-of-age story in these three books. Here, about two thirds of the time we are in Andesia, where Max has fewer chances to work his skills as a problem solver, and there is an oppressive regime atmosphere there that makes this last book somewhat gloomy, but it’s still a fine read, and has some clever revelations and surprises. There is also the satisfaction of Max and his parents finally being reunited in Andesia after so many months, though that reunion is hard to achieve for the rescuers, and fraught with peril for everyone.