© Trenton Lee Stewart, illustrations © Diana Sudyka.
This is the second book in a new mystery/adventure series of novels written for children. I reviewed the first book here. The quartet of young protagonists have been apart for some months, each following their own life paths, but at the beginning of this book are drawn back together by their sponsor, Mr. Benedict in what they think will be a fun reunion to talk over their past adventure. Instead they soon find out that Mr. Benedict and his top assistant have been captured by their mortal enemy — and Mr. Benedict’s twin brother — the evil Mr. Curtain. Reynie, Kate, Sticky and Constance, four bright, gifted children, set off on their own in this new adventure to try to rescue Mr. Benedict, following a series of clues he left them. Along the way they face many dangers, make new friends, dash into desperate escapes, and with the help of Kate’s father finally reach the remote island where Mr. Benedict is being held prisoner. There things get even harder for them.
As the second book of a series (with the third already announced), there are fewer surprises than in the first book, where everything was fresh, but the characters are appealing and well written. The overall feel of the book is fairly light in tone, and there are plenty of coincidences helping the plot along. Still, it’s an entertaining adventure, and miles ahead of series books like The Hardy Boys I read in my own youth in quality of writing. One new thing in this book is the expansion of setting beyond the imaginary city of Stonetown into the wide world, with the children traveling by ship to Europe and visitng real places there. The one area I think this second book disappointed me a little is in the illustrations by Diana Sudyka. The first book’s pictures by Carson Ellis, and especially the hand-drawn chapter titles in them, were better. Sudyka tries to match the style Ellis established, but doesn’t have the design skills to do it as well. She does okay with the cover picture and the children, though.
A satisfying read, nothing deep, but entertaining. Recommended.