Abigail Pope's scientist uncle has been killed with several other scientists in a suspicious explosion. He told her that if he died, InVesta (an oil and arms company) would be responsible. She finds Will, Andrew and Gaia and hires them to find out what happened. It turns out that the uncle was working on a cold fusion project, FIREball, and his death was not an accident. What makes these books appealing is the large number of gadgets that almost actually exist (robot bugs, exploding ink, fabric that hardens), supersmart but not geeky kids, helpful but largely tangential adults, children who can accomplish more because they are children and no one suspects them, and outrageous but believably drawn spy highjinks. My favorite was when the team highjacked a Bobcat to chase someone. Who knew that I would like spy novels so much? Really can't wait for the next two!
Also brilliantly humorous was Michael D. Beil's The Red Blazer Girls: The Ring of Rocamadour. (NEWS!!! There IS a web site at www.redblazergirls.com)It started wonderfully, with a backwards publication data page (which, yes, I held up to the mirror), Rick Riordan worthy chapter titles ("In which I enter an alternate universe where burly men read Cosmo and giant house cats roam sacred corridors"), and a fabulous back cover blurb. Not only that, but Monty Python is quoted on page 10! (So I guess I can agree with Provo City Library Childrens Book Review that there is some mild language, but nothing to keep it out of my library.) Basically, three New York City private school girls meet a neighbor who finds a twenty year old birthday card to her estranged granddaughter, and wants the girls to follow the clues, which they do quite ably. I heartily dislike this sort of mystery, but yes, I solved some of the puzzles even though I didn't want to. What kept me reading? The characters, a romantic interest, and fun turns of phrase. (page 263: "What else do you have in that bag of yours?" "A forklift. Miniature nuclear reactor. One of those inflatable swimming pools. Lipstick ray gun.") I am really glad to hear that the Red Blazer Girls have more adventures coming soon.
The only miss of the evening was Alisa Libby's The King's Rose, but only because this story of Catherine Howard's relationship with Henry VIII was more of a high school book. While very well done and interesting, there were too many details that were not really appropriate. The fact that she was 15 and Henry was 50 just was creepy. Maybe the cover should have told me-- it did amuse me, though, because one of our teachers had the splendid idea that girls with low cleavage should be made to wear bouquets to obscure the view. You can think of the delightful name she created for these yourself. (She also had one for the unappealing back view of workmen having to do with boutonnieres, but I digress.)