Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong mystery and fun characters
Cons: All cons captured by desperadoes
The Bottom Line:
Top notch, fast paced mystery
Holds up to rereads
Returning to NYC to Help a Friend
While today, I obsessively read books in order, I never worried about it when I was a kid. Most of the time, the events of one book didn’t follow the events of another, so you could read a book in any order and you wouldn’t miss anything. One of the few exceptions to that rule is The Downtown Desperadoes. This entry in the Accidental Detectives series is a direct sequel to Lost Beneath Manhattan since it takes Ricky Kidd and the gang back to New York City to help a friend we met in that first book.
It all starts with a phone call. Ricky is confused by the strange message, and he is certain it is a prank, expect for the fact that the voice sounds familiar. It’s a couple of hours later when he recognizes it as Brother Phillip, the man who had helped him track down his younger brother when Joel was kidnapped during the class trip to New York City back in the spring. When his father tries to find out what is happening with Brother Phillip, he discovers the mission the man run has burned down, and the police believe that Brother Phillip died in the fire. The only problem is, the fire took place before the phone call. Ricky is able to convince his family and friends, Ralphy and Mike, to change their Thanksgiving plans and go to the city, but when they arrive, things only get weirder. Did they really know Brother Phillip? Is he in danger? Or is he a criminal?
It really is helpful to have read this book in the proper order since we see many of the same characters we first met in Lost Beneath Manhattan again. However, if you haven’t read that book yet (or it’s been a while since you have), we get enough background to follow what is happening here. That includes passages from the earlier book as seeing the people and places again triggers Ricky’s memories. Don’t worry, these passages are brief and serve their purpose.
This is another fast-paced mystery with plenty of twists and turns to keep readers of all ages glued to the page. These books first came out in the early-90’s, and I was technically older than the target audience back then. That hasn’t stopped me from reading and loving these books several times over the years. At this point, I remembered the ultimate solution, but I didn’t remember all the twists and turns along the way, so I was once again turning pages as quickly as I could. As much as I was racing to solve the case again, I was still able to pause to admire just how subtly the clues were laid into the book. Seriously, this is a master class is writing a mystery that still leaves me in awe as an adult.
The characters are good. They are a step above the characters we would get in a typical middle grade mystery, but there isn’t a ton of definition or development. Then again, what can you expect with a 130 page book. They are strong enough to pull us into the story, and kids won’t care. Heck, I don’t care as an adult. It helps that there are a couple of scenes that still make me laugh as I read.
These novels were original written for the Christian market. The Christian element isn’t overpowering (in fact, I found it a little light in this book), but know that going into the story.
I mentioned earlier that these books originally came out in the 1990’s. As a result, a few things are a bit dated, and the character’s ages also reflect events that were more contemporary than they are now. This is just something to note in passing since it really has no bearing on the meat of the book.
Every time I revisit the Accidental Detectives, I’m reminded why I love these characters so much. The Downtown Desperadoes will keep kids, or anyone who loves a great mystery, turning pages until they reach the satisfying end.