Click Here to Start (A Novel) by Denis Markell; Delacorte, 320 pages, $16.99. Ages 10 and up.
This nifty mystery, the author’s debut novel, will have surefire appeal to kids who love video games. Twelve-year-old Ted Gerson is a whiz at video games and is particularly good at solving escape-the-room puzzles. Young Ted barely knows his great-uncle Ted, a World War II veteran who fought with the Japanese-American soldiers of the Nisei Brigade. On his death bed in the hospital, his great uncle quizzes Ted about his love of puzzles and leaves him with mysterious parting words “always go for broke.” His great-uncle’s will leaves money to pay the Harvard tuition for Ted’s brilliant older sister Lila, but young Ted is left the contents of his uncle’s messy apartment in a crummy neighborhood. Ted is convinced there is something valuable in the apartment, but he will need all his observational skills, and the help of his best friend and the annoyingly perfect daughter of his father’s new boss to figure out what it is. Then a mysterious stranger shows up to join the search, saying that great-uncle Ted made off with a valuable stolen art object during World War II. Markell offers plenty of scary suspense, thrilling action, references to literature and movies and lots of humor in his cleverly constructed puzzle. The book is dedicated to “the valiant men of the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat team, who fought so bravely for the U.S. at a time when their Japanese-American relatives back at home were being treated so dishonorably.” His wife’s uncle was among them.
– Jean Westmoore
Fairy Friend by Sue Fliess; illustrated by Claire Keane; Henry Holt, $16.99.
This enchanting picture book with its lilting rhymes and sweet illustrations in muted shades of green and brown and rose conjures up a world where indeed a fairy friend might come calling if you built “a house of twigs and blooms, walls of blossoms, cotton floor, sparrow feather for her door…. Mushroom cap to take her bath. Thistle fluff for fairy’s bed. Willow fuzz to rest her head.” A perfect bedtime story for the little ones.
– Jean Westmoore
You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott, Little Brown, 345 pages ($26)
What Megan Abbott knows, as so many maestros of the heebie-jeebies do, is that it’s not strangers who are scary; it’s the people you think you know and love. That imperturbable spouse? Quite perturbable, actually. That angelic child? A vault of secrets. Those friends and relations you welcome with your arms outstretched? Not always worthy of your trust.
“You Will Know Me,” Abbott’s cunning new novel, opens with an unlikely bacchanal. A group of obsessive parents and their gymnast daughters are at a suburban catering hall, celebrating the success of 15-year-old Devon Knox, who has just completed a regional competition that puts her on track for the Olympics.
The music’s loud, the alcohol plentiful. There’s way too much flirting. Grown-ups and girleens alike are obsessed with Ryan, the hottie boyfriend of the head coach’s voluptuous niece, Hailey. We watch the whole evening muzzily unfold from the point of view of Katie, Devon’s mother, drunk on rum punch and her magical daughter’s success. Even she finds herself dancing with Ryan in giddy victory, just before he’s dispatched to make something called “momtinis” for the ladies.
Everyone is in such a fragile state of ecstasy and longing that you know it’s all going to unravel in a trice.
And so it does. Just a few months later, Ryan is killed in a hit-and-run accident. Just what he was doing, walking by his lonesome late at night – well, this is certainly a question. The police are investigating. The moms have their theories.
Abbott, author of “The Fever” and “Dare Me,” is in top form in this novel, filling her readers with queasy suspicion at every turn.
– Jennifer Senior, New York Times