Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Devlin Quick Mysteries - Book One, Into the Lion's Den

It appears that perhaps mystery series are starting to make a comeback in the young adult / children's sections.  Wells & Wong mysteries.  The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency mysteries.  the Curious Cat Spy Club mysteries, the mysteries of Maisie Hitchens, Young & Yang mysteries, the Friday Barnes mysteries, the Amanda Lester mysteries, and now ... the Devlin Quick mysteries!

So far, I've been fortunate.  The series that I have picked up have, for the most part, managed to be well-written with great plots and interesting characters.  A couple of friends read this first Devlin Quick mystery before I did and had good things to say about it. So, I went into it with a bit higher hopes than I probably should have.

Into the Lion's Den is not something I would call "off to a good start" as far as mystery series goes.  The plot is actually interesting - a friend of Devlin's is a witness to a thief cutting a map from a very valuable book in the New York Public Library, but no one believes her.  Devlin, of course, does and helps her friend not only prove that she was telling the truth, but track down and reveal the identity of the culprit (who, as it turns out, has been stealing maps from antique books in libraries for some time).  Devlin is quick-thinking and determined (similar to Nancy Drew), but as with many of the young adult mysteries these days, she is only 12 years old.

Maybe I'm dating myself here, but I remember reading children's mysteries about older teenagers (anywhere from 16 to 18 years old), which, in a way, gave me something to look forward to when I got that age.  They inspired me, in some degree, to strive to do better, to help others, and to realize I could do anything I wanted.  Sure, the teenage detectives were somewhat rebellious in nature, bucking the system that told them they couldn't do these things with adults who did not take them seriously.  But this trend in recent years to have detectives who are 12 years old, or thereabout, just doesn't work for me.  Yes, the stories may be good, but the idea that 12-year olds have as much freedom as these kids to and are able to get around and do things without parental supervision is stretching the line of believability.  Perhaps that is the trade off for all of today's technology that the teenage sleuths of yesteryear didn't have - computers, internet, cell phones, etc.

Regardless, the book does have the obligatory Nancy Drew reference (as every mystery about a female sleuth set in the present time has to do).  While investigating the library, they come across a sign up sheet for WOMEN IN CRIME FICTION: NANCY DREW TO JANE MARPLE (p. 196). Then, just one page later, when Devlin's friend shows signs of being scared, Devlin remarks, "Really?  Do you think Nancy Drew let every little thing scare the daylights out of her?"  Still nice to see that Nancy Drew remains the icon when it comes to female sleuths.

Unfortunately, none of that was enough to make me enjoy the book.  The author, Linda Fairstein, weaves a pretty good plot, but sadly, she seems to rely so heavily on having Devlin explain everything - and I do mean EVERYTHING!  From explaining who Teddy Roosevelt was, to what a facial recognition system is (in excrutciating detail), the fact that the library holds things other than just books, what carbon paper is (seriously?), what a subpoena is and how it is used, who Andrew Carnegie was, and so many other things.  In fact, it got to the point where any time an historical person or a technological item was mentioned, I could count on an overly-detailed explanation to follow.  Clearly, Fairstein does not give her readers credit for knowing things they should know - - either that, or she had a certain page count she wanted to read and figured padding the story with needless explanations would fill those pages.  Either way, it became distracting and, quite honestly, ruined my enjoyment of the story overall.

And editing seems to be a thing of the past (as my reading friends and I have discovered in recent years).  Not exactly sure what editors do these days, but it appears not to be actual editing.  For instance, one of the suspects is said to own a bookstore called "Blogett Books" on page 183 - - yet, just 23 pages later, that same suspect is said to own a bookstore called "Buckhead Books."  Honestly, how hard is it to remember a name you've given a bookstore, especially within 20 pages of each mention?

Would I recommend this series to mystery fans?  I doubt it.  Will I purchase a second book in the series if one comes out?  That remains to be seen...

RATING:  4 marble lion statues out of 10 for centering a mystery around a library and for giving Devlin a grandmother who is one to be reckoned with!

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