The second book in the 39 clues series picked up right where the first one left off. I was a little uneasy knowing that this was by a different author (and not knowing anything about this author), but I was generally pleased with the tone, voice and general pacing of the story that was presented.
It made me wonder about the serialization of the story and how much control/oversight Scholastic gives to the various authors taking part. I'm sure Scholastic has a general trajectory but I wonder if they provide the authors with outlines of specific elements each book requires or if they just give a start/end point and some character overview and let the authors run with it. I find the idea very intriguing.
The plot of this book felt a little faster paced than the first one. I attribute part of that to the fact that the first book needed to present the general build up and meta-story of the treasure/clue hunt and the dynamics of the family. Book 2 provided minimal references to the backstory (enough to remind readers of what's going on…or to potentially bring new readers up to speed) but kept the recaps brief enough to not interfere with the flow of the story.
There was a lot of increased tension as Amy and Dan bounced around various European cities in search of clues related to a small piece of music written by Mozart as well as obscure references from his family and friends.
There were a number of times I had to drastically suspend my disbelief in order to willfully follow the kids across multiple countries in high profile situations. The pace of the plot moved along so quickly though that I had little time to sit back and think about the "reality" of the situation, so instead I just rolled along with the fun.
As I said, the plot was more fast paced. It felt like there were more high-tension situations and more close calls or dangerous encounters. Looking back on book 1, I think there were many similar encounters, but for some reason, in this book, the suspense and anxiety feels like it was taken up a notch (cornered in underground family strongholds, breaking into hotel rooms and evading security, high speed chases around the city, etc.).
I'm a little torn as to the trajectory of the mystery/story in this book. Some of the clues and their resulting goals felt like blind leaps of faith that just happened to pay off with strange coincidences. Again, my suspension of disbelief had a hard time reacting to some of these clues/elements remaining where they were for as long as they had (particularly the final revelation of the book…I have a real hard time believing that nobody found what the kids found). But as to the overall mystery, I'm actually growing more intrigued…especially as to the identity of the "man in black", the motivations/actions of the lawyer who 'read' the will, and even some of the dynamics between the various family members.
These books are a very quick read and the kids really enjoy them. From an adult perspective, they're light and definitely have holes in the plot, but they're still a lot of fun when read with the right expectations. I look forward to following this series out and seeing where the clues lead.
As a general "adult" adventure/mystery book, I'd give this a 3 out of 5, but as a kids' adventure (which is what it is), it's a solid 4.
4 out of 5 stars
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