Sunday, July 5, 2020

Book Review: Super Puzzletastic Mysteries presented by Chris Grabenstein

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: 20 strong stories for you to solve
Cons: All cons will remain a puzzling mystery
The Bottom Line:
Can you solve these tales?
Twenty short stories to read
And match wits with sleuths

Twenty Great Puzzles and Mysteries for You to Solve

As soon as I heard about Super Puzzletastic Mysteries, I knew I had to read a copy.  Twenty members of Mystery Writers of America, headlined by Chris Grabenstein, got together to create a book of mysteries for middle graders to enjoy.  I wasn’t at all disappointed.

Each story in this book is designed to give you the clues you need to solve it right along with the characters.  Think Encyclopedia Brown.  The solutions are at the back, so once you’ve read the story and thought it over, you can see how well you did.  The stories vary in length, but they average 15 pages each, making them a good length for reading aloud.  I’m not familiar with all of the authors, but it appears most of them have created the characters for the stories presented here, although a few authors do use characters they’ve written about before.

There were five authors I recognized in this collection.  Chris Grabenstein brings back Riley Mack to solve “Snow Devils.”  I’d forgotten just how much I loved these characters, and I enjoyed the mystery of the word written in the snow.  Stuart Gibbs gives us the short “Monkey Business,” set at FunJungle.  As expected, it gave me a few laughs along with the clues.  Gigi Pandian presents “The Haunted Typewriter,” a delightful story about stolen jewelry and clues from a typewriter that no one thought worked.  I just discovered James Ponti a month ago, and it wasn’t with one of the books in the Framed series, but I had fun meeting those characters in “Tricked.”

Then there’s “Possum-Man and Janet” by Steve Hockensmith.  I’ve read Steve’s books for years, so he was one of the reasons I wanted to pick up this collection.  His story was definitely one of my favorites in the collection.  Possum-Man is a Batman wannabe, and the escapades in this story were hysterical.  I NEED more Possum-Man in my life.

Which brings us to the other fifteen stories in the collection.  Among the highlights are “The Perfect Alibi” by Fleur Bradley, which finds two young friends solving a cold case burglary.  “Codename: Mom” by Laura Brennan features a kid who must act fast when his mother gets into trouble.  A group of kids have to work together to solve a series of puzzles in “The Red Envelope” by Lara Cassidy.

Honestly, there isn’t a bad story in the bunch.  These are all clever and entertaining, with a mixed group of main characters.  They will please the target audience.  I know they kept me entertained.

Some of the stories are straight up mysteries.  As I said, the clues are there if you are paying attention.  Others do feature puzzles or codes that you can solve along with the characters in the story.  And, once you’ve learned about the difference puzzles, you can find more to solve or create your own when you are done with all the stories in the collection.

So how did I do?  I figured out a few of the stories, but not as many as I would have liked.  Even so, it was fun trying to see if I could spot the revealing moment or not.  Maybe if I had gotten to read them as part of a group, I would have solved more while brainstorming together before flipping to the end.

Kids will be delighted with Super Puzzletastic Mysteries, and it will introduce them to some new authors to explore.

This review is part of this week's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.


  1. I saw your post on DorothyL and came over to find out more. I'm going to order this for my granddaughters today!

  2. OMG this book sounds fabulous! I will have to get a copy of it.