Not long ago I reviewed “The Blue Man” by Kin Platt, and reading that book prompted me to reread my favorite by the author. There are quite a few books written for younger readers by Platt I haven’t read, but it’s hard to imagine there are any out there that can top this one, it’s a gem.
Steve Forrester, a teenager living in the small, historic town of Hampton, Long Island is the viewpoint character of the story, and he gives almost equal time to his pet bulldog Sinbad, who seems pretty smart for a dog, though perhaps not as smart as Steve claims, but that’s part of the fun of his narration, as Steve projects some of his own thoughts and ideas onto Sinbad, and they do make a good team. Steve is home for the summer taking a make-up course. Steve is a great narrator with some unusual interests: architecture and the history of the houses in town, for instance. Mrs. Teska, a feisty old lady with a small store where he helps out, for another. His parents are away visiting family, and have allowed Steve and Sinbad to stay home on their own. It’s a small town, everyone knows everyone, what could happen?
Quite a lot! And it begins when some thugs visit Mrs. Teska looking for something she doesn’t want to give them. Sinbad scares them off the first time, but they come back when he’s not there and wreck the place. There’s a mystery brewing, and Steve and Sinbad are on the case. It leads them to the story of a gambling boat sunk just offshore a few decades earlier, perhaps with lots of money on board, another possible treasure amassed by a real pirate whose house sits abandoned on the same rocky coast, a series of clues and puzzles that seem to be leading somewhere, a cave with a dangerous entrance only open at low tide, and with a skull and coded message inside, a girl who seems to have some of the answers, a newspaperman who’s also on the trail of the treasures, a number of strangers around town doing odd things, and lots more intrigue and adventure in this corking good yarn! And don’t forget about those thugs, they’re always on Steve and Sinbad’s trail, making trouble for him and Mrs. Teska, who has some surprising secrets of her own.
If you like mysteries with treasure involved, this is fine one. It’s like a Hardy Boys story done really, really well, with codes and puzzles, and lots of action, and wonderful characters. A nice leavening of humor in Steve’s narration, too. The Mystery Writers of America liked it, they gave it one of their “Edgar” awards. It’s a pretty long children’s book, my copy is close to 300 pages, but it’s the kind of book where, once you get into it, you keep checking to see how much is left, not because you want to finish it, but because you don’t want it to end! Needless to say, this book is highly recommended if you can find it. Sadly, it’s out of print, and the listings on Amazon are absurdly high, so I’m not even going to link to that. Keep an eye out in used book outlets, though!