Monday, December 13, 2010

The Ring of Rocamadour

This middle-grade mystery novel sees a group of friends who attend a private Catholic school in New York City stumble upon an intriguing mystery.  Twenty years earlier, a father set up a sort of scavenger hunt for his daughter's birthday.  As the father was an eminent archaeologist, the prize is a priceless artifact, believed to be lost.  The scavenger hunt is a series of puzzles to be solved, but as it was all set into place so long ago, the girls don't know if their search is coming too late.  The friends work together, though, combining their strengths and various areas of expertise, and asking for help when they need it.  What ensues is an atmospheric adventure with an intriguing mystery, which also focuses on friendship and even a little romance.

There was a lot to like about this one.  I enjoyed a mystery featuring strong and smart characters who are not shy about their own skills and intelligence.  The puzzles were interesting, and while I enjoyed listening to the audio version, I think that kids would probably have more fun reading the book themselves, so they could take time out to try their own hand at the puzzles.  Character development among the friends was a little shaky at first, and the girls were fairly interchangeable throughout the first part of the book.  But by the end they were more clearly formed in my mind, which made me interested to continue with the next book of this promising new series.  I think that fans of the Blue Balliett books would particularly enjoy this, as well as mystery lovers in general, and those who like school-centered stories.

Books in the Red Blazer Girls series:
1. The Ring of Rocamadour 
2. The Vanishing Violin
3. The Mistaken Masterpiece (2011)

The Ring of Rocamadour (#1 in the Red Blazer Girls series) by Michael Beil; narrated by Tai Alexandra Ricci (Listening Library, 2009)

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