John J. Bonk, Madhattan Mystery, is like being back in the city; the overwhelming hubbub, the news, the landmarks, the summer heat, all through the eyes of three tweens smack dab in the middle of it all.
The McGill siblings are being sent to City Camp so their Dad and his new wife can take a long honeymoon in Europe; their own mother having died two years earlier. No sooner do twelve-year-old Lexi and her ten-year-old brother, Kevin, arrive at Grand Central Station, receive a warm welcome from their quirky, loveable, actress Aunt Roz then Lexi, standing in The Whispering Gallery outside a restaurant, overhears two men planning what could only be a very costly crime. She's willing to dismiss the entire conversation until the newspaper headlines the next morning announce the theft of jewels en route from the Cairo Museum on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the upcoming "Queen of the Nile" exhibit. City Camp orientation gets out earlier than expected so their new smart, sassy "friend" Kim Ling Levine, daughter of the owners of their aunt's apartment building, leads them on an excursion to Central Park.
Catching another news flash on a biker's radio while at the park, declaring the posting of an excessive reward, Lexi decides against all her instincts to tell Kim Ling what she heard. Kim Ling, grooming herself for a career in investigative journalism, is on that like bees drawn to honey. In a race against time the three join forces to try to piece together the bits and pieces of words from the exchange between the two men.
Throw the FBI , the NYPD, a runaway teen, the tunnels beneath Grand Central Station and a nighttime excursion to Central Park into the mix and you have a whirlwind adventure that can't be beat. Using courage, intelligence and taking risks beyond their capabilities Lexi, Kevin and Kim Ling are on a roller coaster ride of events. Taking more twists and turns than a cab in the city the storyline speeds toward an ending filled with surprises right up to the very last page.
What sets this narrative above others in this genre is the vitality in the writing of John J. Bonk. I found myself laughing out loud and marking passages for their true voice, humor and detail. Each of the three main characters are lively, wise in their own ways with frailties and flaws; Lexi, sensible, superstitious and haunted by the past, Kevin, fearful, optimistic and innocent and Kim Ling, a walking dictionary, brimming with intelligence and too sharp-tongued for her own good.
While this is most definitely a whopping good mystery, it is also about forging friendships with opposites, blended families and dealing with loss. Weaving the flashbacks within the story was touchingly brilliant. The varied richness of the supporting characters, tenants in the building, people on the street, city employees and the City Camp personnel, truly enhances the tale.
Here are some samples of Bonk's writing from the story.
The first ten minutes in the cab were like Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, and Kevin was red-faced and white-knuckled clinging to the armrest.
He wore a toothy smile and plaid shorts with droopy black socks, putting the eek in geek.
"Okay, tell me, why're we following her again?" Lexi asked Kevin.
"You got me. But she does crack me up."
Lexi shook her head in wonder. "She's like the Pied Piper of Manhattan---with road rage."
Madhattan Mystery penned by John J. Bonk is as fast-paced, spirited and filled with a mixture of personalities as the city in which it is set. One of the best reads of 2012, it ranks as one of my all time favorite mysteries. Be sure to visit Bonk's website linked to his name above as well as a guest post at John Schumacher's Watch. Connect. Read. and an interview more recently at The O. W. L.