Monday, September 26, 2016

Alice Jones : The impossible clue by Sarah Rubin

The front cover says :

Alice Jones - Code maker Crime breaker

I would add :

Alice Jones - Mystery solver Extraordinary mathematician
Alice Jones - Logical thinker Problem solver

Alice Jones The impossible clue is a terrific detective/mystery/crime story for middle to upper primary grade students.  It is quite a long book (285 pages) and the the print is small (a little too small in my view) but the action of the story, the determination of Alice to solve this crime and the driving mystery meant I read the whole book in one sitting this morning.

"Ladies and gentlemen. I'm afraid the unveiling of the latest scientific breakthrough which Delgado industries made in December cannot go ahead as scheduled. ... our top scientist and lead researcher on this project, Dr Adrian Learner, has disappeared."

This disappearance is made all the more mysterious because Dr Learner was working on invisibility and security cameras show him walking in to his laboratory at 4pm but not walking out.  His assistant goes into the room the next morning at 7am and Dr Learner has disappeared. Has he invented a cloak of invisibility?

Alice is drawn into this case by her classmate Sammy - the son of Mr Delgado. After the press conference, quoted above, Alice and her dad who is a journalist meet privately with Mr Delgado and he enlists her help.  He even gives Alice a case file he had intended to give a firm of private investigators and permission to visit his high security building to look at the laboratory where Dr Learner had been working.

Running parallel with this whodunit mystery is the messy home life of Alice,  Mum lives in Italy, her twin sister Della is home for the summer and dad is a highly distracted journalist.  Della is an aspiring actress with her sights set on the lead role in Annie.  I actually found this part of the story much less interesting than the race to solve the crime.

Here is a sample of the way Sarah Rubin describes the action so well you can see it all unfolding in front of you.  In this scene Alice and her friend Kevin are getting close to the truth so have been captured and tied up.  They manage to cut through the tape using a sharp ended pot plant.  Help is on the way but all of this is taking too long and Alice sees the police driving away. She grabs a red blanket from the lounge and waves it from the rain soaked balcony :

"I put one foot on the lowest bar of the railing and hoisted myself up, leaning over the side of the balcony so that I could hold the red blanket over the edge.  The worn threads of my shoes slipped worryingly against the metal ... I just couldn't hold on any more but my fingers slipped on the wet metal ladder rung.  The weight of the soaking red blanket in my other hand tipped me forwards, and I pivoted on my shins over the edge of the balcony and arced a perfect circle into the air."

You can read some reviews here by children from the UK. click the quotes below or read another one here.  You can also read the first chapter.  This is another terrific book from Chicken House.  I do find their books are always worth reading.  In 2017 the second Alice Jones book will be published. You can see the cover below.

Rubin has an engaging tone which makes the book an easy read and more importantly makes Alice the kind of kid you’d be happy to sit with in school – and not just because she’s really good at maths. Like, really good.

The Impossible Clue has just the right mixture of laughs, tension and danger, dastardly deeds and red herrings and a good, classic mystery trope of the locked room. 

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