An author of adult best-sellers attempts to cross over with a routine mystery (first published in Britain in 1976). Izzie's father is trying to raise money to reopen an old film studio—behind the flat where Izzie's friend Mick lives—when word comes that a developer, Norton Wheeler, is seeking permission to raze both the studio and the fiats. Sneaking into the studio, Mick and Izzie spy on a group of tough-talking men with a suitcase of money. Could they be the infamous Disguise Gang, bank robbers who use makeup rather than masks? Then Mick locates Wheeler's house and finds a makeup brash plus a deposit slip from a recently robbed bank; 20 pages later it occurs to him that Wheeler might be connected to the Gang! Comparing robberies to a schedule that a neighbor just happens to have kept of traffic in and out of the studio, Mick reaches the stunning conclusion that the Disguise Gang uses the studio for a hide-out! This less-than-dazzling detective work culminates in a nearly drama-free climax: the bad guys nab Izzie just before they are themselves nabbed by the police. These characters have little individuality, and Follett makes no apparent effort to surprise or challenge readers. A disappointment.

Pub Date: April 25, 1990

ISBN: 0590425064

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 23, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1990

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Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...


Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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Offbeat kids, in dialogue, ingenious pretense and attendant complications—all the elements for ten, eleven-year-old enjoyment, and then a problem: a criminally insane killer of children. April, an insecure sophisticate, and Melanie, a sensible Negro girl of compatible imagination, transform a deserted back yard into the land of Egypt, and themselves into votaries of ancient rites. The Egypt Game is not only "a terrific game," but also "a life unknown to grown-ups and lived by kids alone." At its height, the wanton murder of a child occurs in the vicinity, and the adults refuse to let the children out to play. But. surveillance relaxes eventually, the ceremonies resume (with new recruits), and on a late night visit to the lot, April is attacked—something grabs her out of the darkness, fingers close on her mouth and throat. She is saved by the shouts of an elderly antique dealer who had been a suspect; the assailant is identified and sent to an institution. The danger to April and the subsequently revealed life story of the antique dealer motivate the solution of most of everybody's family problems, and Melanie and April (much humanized) plan further imaginative adventures. The heterogeneous composition of a university community in California contributes to the subtle (sometimes suspicious, ultimately enriching) relationships among the children, and their Egyptian absorption is all too real. But objections remain: the antique dealer is the stock suspect-turned-sympathetic-sage, and the demented killer is both tangential to the plot and a questionable component in a book for this age. As Melanie says, this is "the kind of thing parents tell their children when they're alone together." Because the episode is handled with restraint, We can only question, not condemn; the decision is yours.

Pub Date: March 21, 1967

ISBN: 1416990518

Page Count: 241

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1967

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