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A book of puzzles, anagrams, and hidden clues wherein two young outcasts must use their witsto solve the mystery of a dead magician and finda kidnapped classmate.
Blending the offbeat humor of Lemony Snicket and insight into the preadolescent psyche à la Jerry Spinelli with the captivating conundrums of Blue Balliett, the debut novel from a pseudonymous author is equal parts supernatural whodunit, suspense-filled adventure and evocative coming-of-age tale.
Gr 4-6- This delightful mystery (Little, Brown, 2007) by Pseudonymous Bosch is about a secret that can't be revealed. Though less common than their Harry Potter brethren, the Lemony Snicket imitators continue to crop up. Enabling JavaScript in your browser will allow you to experience all the features of our site.
When an unlikely pair of 11-year-old outsiders-survivalist Cassandra and aspiring stand-up comedian Max-Ernest-team up to solve a mystery surrounding the alleged death of an old magician and the strange and wondrous possessions he left behind, they unwittingly cross paths with the villainous Dr. In fact, the narrator takes great pains not to reveal too much information throughout the book, even telling the audience to "forget everything as soon as I tell it." As the story unfolds, Cassandra (not her real name!) has come upon a puzzling box of "smells" and a message from a dead magician.
Textbook The first few chapters present a tricky little exercise in metafiction in which the story about a secret is revealed as being itself too secret to tell, a ploy sure to tickle more puzzlesome readers.

Cassandra and Max-Ernest (not his real name either) embark on an exciting adventure that involves a strange notebook written in secret code, a magician who has inexplicably disappeared, and a "golden lady" who seems to be ageless and will do whatever she can to stay that way. Cass has pointy ears and wants to be prepared for every emergency (hence the backpack full of supplies she always carries). But then the intrusive narrator, who is equal parts snarky and delightful, strikes a deal and deigns to tell the story with fake names in Your Hometown, as long as you agree to "forget everything you read as soon as you read it." Then follows a not terribly shocking story wherein two intrepid kids uncover a mysterious society bent on immortality, which gets them in and out of all manner of trouble. David Pittu does a wonderful job of voicing the quirky narrator and gives each character a distinct and appropriate voice. While some may be disappointed that there is no mind-bending secret at the bottom of it all as promised, most junior Da Vinci Coders will likely be having too much fun to notice. After the diabolical duo shows up at Cass and Max-Ernest's school, one of their classmates (a gifted artist named Benjamin) goes missing. Convinced that Benjamin has been kidnapped and faces mortal danger, Cass and Max-Ernest track the doctor and his glove-wearing sidekick to an exclusive and remote "sensorium" cum spa, where they uncover an arcane, alchemical, potentially apocalyptic bombshell. When Cass discovers the mysterious accoutrements of a dead magician, she enlists Max-Ernst's help in determining whether or not the posthumous illusionist left clues amongst his belongings asking for help.

Relayed by an often witty, sometimes arch narrator, and loaded with brainteasers-anagrams, coded messages, palindromes and more-as well as such bounty as a brief and idiosyncratic history of Benito Mussolini, the definition of synesthesia and how Earl Grey tea got its name, Bosch's deliberately eccentric offering is likely to acquire a cult following. What the kids discover instead is a cult of powerful men and women bent on immortality that will stop at nothing to preserve (one way or another) their way of life.
The title references the tone of Lemony Snicket time and time again without ever conjuring up the same wit and wisdom. The story line is often engaging, but its ubiquitous narrative trope comes across as more annoying than insightful.

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