This is the second of two mystery novels for young readers by Fenton, a sequel to “The Phantom of Walkaway Hill.” James is back visiting his cousins Amanda and Obie at their isolated farmhouse in the country on Walkaway Hill, and they soon meet the new owner of another house at the bottom of their hill, Mr. Vanniver, as well as Miss Button, a real estate agent who sold both houses, and who dresses flamboyantly in red, and drives a bright red car. Before long, a new mystery arises at Mr. Vanniver’s house: someone has broken in and vandalized some pieces of luggage he bought, and another person has been making nosy inquiries about him. The owner of an antique and junk shop says they’re looking for a red whale, but no one knows what that means. Could there be a Russian connection tied to a nearby Russian embassy summer retreat? A local woman thinks Mr. Vanniver is a spy, and is causing more trouble. When James finally gets an idea about the red whale and how to find it, the children are soon in serious trouble.
Recommended, though as a mystery it’s a bit frustrating, as there’s no clear trail of clues to the final reveal. The writing style of narrator James is entertaining and sometimes funny, reminding me a bit of Keith Robertson’s Henry Reed books.