Thursday, September 02, 2021

Spy School at Sea (Spy School #9)

Gibbs, Stuart. Spy School at Sea (Spy School #9)
August 31st 2021 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
ARC provided by the publisher

Ben's nemesis has been tracked down, and the CIA decides to send him to try to bring in Murray Hill. The young double agent is thought to be boarding the ultra fancy cruise ship, The Emperor of the Seas, so there's a group put together to bring him in. Erica's mom and dad will pose as the parents, and Erica, Mike, and Ben will be their children. Nothing awkward about that, since Ben still has a massive crush on Erica! The ship is enormous and filled with awesome food and lots of teen activities, but finding Murray is of utmost importance. After seeing an oddly named couple in a luxury suite that seems to point to Murray's handiwork, the kids break in... only to find Jessica Shang and her mother, who own the ship. Since Ben helped put her criminal father away, Jessica knows about Ben's connections, and helps him get passes and uniforms to facilitate the group's movement through the ship, although they are told NOT to go into the engine room. Things don't go smoothly at all. Alexander is horribly seasick, and Ben gets thrown overboard. Luckily, Mike rescues him, and they end up having a lovely visit with a drug overlord who is very concerned about sea turtles and takes them back to the ship. They do find Murray, but are suspicious as to exactly why he's on the ship. It's not enough just to locate him, and Mike, Erica, and Ben have to work quickly to thwart is evil plans. 
Strengths: I always think I can't possibly enjoy yet another book in Gibbs' series, and then they always, always end up being so enjoyable. Just fun, and effortless to read. They are so well constructed that I don't even think to mention exactly how the stories were successful. I loved seeing some recurring characters, like the Shangs, and being surprised by the various nefarious activities that are uncovered that aren't even being investigated. There are plenty of tips on how to survive and how to spy (I know that if I ever fall overboard, I need to go straight into the water and not belly flop!), and Ben's friendship with Mike and nascent romance with Erica continue to improve. This is as close as I will get to a cruise-- I had promised myself that once my mother and my dog both passed away, I would go on one for spring break, and by that point, we were deep in the pandemic. I'll probably never get to Hawaii, either-- maybe book ten can take us there! 
Weaknesses: As someone who read all 29 of the Braun Cat Who mysteries, I understand the appeal of a lengthy series. As a middle school librarian, I wish that series would be shorter because book 9 never circulates as much as book 1, 2, or 3. And, man, we needed more good mission names. Those always make me snort aloud. 
What I really think: These books do still circulate, so much so that when the publisher offered me a paper ARC, I took it because I have students who live near me and will be thrilled to be able to read it before it is published. But ten is a nice round number, and then we can see fascinating new characters like Charlie Thorne.

I feel like I need a giant "I've Read All the Spy School Books" button!

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