This series has really grown on me. I was a bit hesitant at first, when I picked up this series, as I'm not a huge fan of boys' mystery series, as they tend to be more about adventure and less about mystery. Plus, the historical aspect about the series was something I thought would border on the boring side of things. I'm not embarrassed to admit that I was completely wrong! Author Steven K. Smith, with his Virginia Mysteries series, has created some very well-rounded characters, placed them in some very interesting and often dangerous situations, and provided readers with well-plotted and engaging mysteries.
Shadows at Jamestown is the sixth book in the series, which, in and of itself, is a huge accomplishment, since so many series on the market today rarely make it past three or four books. In this mystery, Sam and his older brother, Derek, along with their friend Caitlin, head off to Jamestown at the invitation of Professor Evanshade to join an archaeological dig for a week at the Jamestown Field School. For Derek, it's a time to pretend like he's a college student and perhaps have some college girls fall madly in love with him. For Caitlin, it's an opportunity to study and learn more about the history of the site. For Sam, though, it's a chance to show he's no longer a child - he can handle being away from home and can take on the responsibility associated with an important historical dig like this.
This is a mystery series, so before the kids even have a chance to start digging for treasures, they overhear Professor Evanshade on an angry phone call; however, when they ask him about it, he tells them it's nothing to worry about, just school business. But these kids are smart, and even they notice the concerned looks on the faces of Toby and Grace, the two college students who will chaperoning the kids to the dig site. There is no time to look into it, though, as Sam, Derek, and Caitlin are shown their dorm rooms then taken to the "West Wall," where the group of professors, teachers, and college students are digging carefully or artifacts.
Smith's own experience raising three sons clearly shows his knowledge and understanding of children, as his writing of the characters is natural and believable. Sam, Derek, and Caitlin each have their own unique personalities, and as the series progresses, so do they. They have begun to mature, they have learned from their experiences, and they have even begun to develop a bond that only siblings and their friends can do. And they use that to not only tease each other, but to work together to solve the mystery surrounding the Jamestown dig. An artifact sent to the Smithsonian has been determined to be a fake, much to the surprise of the Professor and his assistants. If they cannot figure out what happened, the Professor's reputations, and the entire Jamestown dig could be on the line! Away from their parents and with more freedom than they expected, Sam, Derek, and Caitlin put their sleuthing skills to the test to figure out what is going on.
No spoiler here, but being as it is their mystery series, it's a given that the three kids do end up solving the mystery, putting themselves in danger, and worrying the heck out of their parents! But Smith provides a logical resolution, and at no time does he have any of the children do anything that ordinary pre-teens wouldn't do. In fact, it's fun to read Sam's concerns with their decisions, Caitlin's determination to be cautious, and Derek's carefree attitude of "jump right in and worry about the consequences later." But, in the end, each of them shine in their own way, making the book a fun read. Glad to know there is already another book out there, with more on the way!
RATING: 8 small worthless pieces of iron out of 10 for proving a children's mystery series can be continuing without losing, but rather, with gaining quality!