Lynn: Mystery on Museum Mile (Houghton 2014) starts off with a bang. Edmund Xavier Lonnrot is being told over a consoling pistachio ice cream cone that his parents can’t afford to send him to his much-loved private school next year when a cry for help sends Edmund’s father racing down an alley to the rescue. A man clutching a bloody knife sprints from the alley and Edmund gets a good look at him. Bingo! Edmund has a photgraphic memory and serious artistic gifts and suddenly he finds himself hired to help the police track down a notorious gang of art thieves. The detective in charge doesn’t like using an eleven-year-old boy one bit but gives him the code name Eddie Red. “You are a camera,” growls Detective Bovano, “Nothing more!”
Much to his disappointment, Edmund finds himself sitting in art museums, pretending to sketch the displayed masterpieces, watching for suspicious faces and it is boring! Just how many times can you draw a cup? He wants to solve the case and he and his best friend, Jonah, set out to do just that. Their efforts are a total disaster until after some careful research, the boys begin to trace a pattern of clues and this time Edmund knows they have the right answer. But there’s a BIG problem. No one will believe them – except the criminals!
Packed with action and laugh-out loud humor, Wells’ debut mystery series is terrific fun. There’s a good puzzle here and the clues are well-placed and intriguing enough to keep the suspense high. But it is the cast of characters that are the real stars. They’re all wonderfully engaging from the sometimes uber-confident Eddie to Jonah who goes off his ADHD meds to work on the case – with disastrous results. The adults are fun too especially Eddie’s loquacious librarian father and the much-tried grumpy Detective Bovano. Of course it all turns out fine, except for the Picasso Gang and I suspect we may see some of that gang again! A teaser promises a new adventure in Spring 2015 – Mystery in Mayan Mexico. I’m ready!
“If you’re a kid, there are three things you need in order to solve a police investigation:
1. A unique crime-fighting talent
2. A best friend who’s a genius
3. A boatload of dumb luck
Eddie is a great character, with all three of those requirements in hand. It is refreshing to have an African American sleuth. His talent for drawing is showcased by full page profile sketches of the suspects, his family and other characters throughout the book. Aspiring portrait artists can start with the “How to Draw Faces” two page spread in the back of the book that gives the basics.
This is a fun series opener and an easy booktalk for 4th-6th grade. It’s the perfect literary gateway drug to a life of hard-boiled detective novels. Don’t get behind the eight-ball. Read this one so you are ready for the sequel.