Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer

39 CLUES: ONE FALSE NOTE by Gordon Korman

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After Rick Riordan laid the foundation for Scholastic’s event-driven, history-drenched, cross-platform series, 39 Clues: The Maze of Bones, YA fave Gordon Korman picks up the baton for the second leg of the journey. Korman pulls out all the stops up as he ratchets up the thrills and pace in 39 Clues: One False Note.

The series is projected to run for 10 novels. The five writers involved with the books will write two volumes apiece. All of the writers are heavy hitters in their own rights. Scholastic didn’t spare the expense to put this series together.

In addition to the books, the series has online support as well as a collectible card game. The contest connected to the books offers $100,000 to the person who solves the final mysteries of the Cahill family. The Cahill family is related to numerous historical figures around the world. Benjamin Franklin, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and several other people kids will recognize from school work as well as movies are all tucked into the pages.

Korman begins his offering immediately after the events of the first book. Amy and Dan, the Cahill siblings orphaned by a tragic accident, start out on a passenger train with their au pair Nellie and their grandmother’s cat Saladin and immediately run into another family searching for the 39 Clues. They quickly manage to outwit the Holt family (again!) and continue on their way to ferret out the secret of the clue they got in Paris.

This time the clue centers on the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, one of the most brilliant musicians in the world. Mozart is supposed to be part of the Janus branch of the Cahill family. So far, the Cahills are broken up into four branches: Lucian, Ekaterina, Janus, and Tomas. Dan and Amy don’t yet know which branch they belong to, and this will probably be part of the big mystery of the books.

The action remains fast and frantic throughout the book, taking our young heroes from Paris to Germany to Austria to Italy. Korman does a really good job of presenting the history as well as the geographical views of those countries. Young readers will get a smattering of history and the landscape as they barrel along through the furious action and blistering dialogue.

Korman also does a fantastic job of capturing all the personalities of the kids, their au pair, and even Saladin the cat. Korman mixes up the story viewpoints a lot, cycling through his characters so the reader more or less knows what everyone is doing all at the same time. This builds a lot of suspense as traps seem to be everywhere.

I particularly enjoyed the bits about the secret passageways. I expect a lot to be made of them, and it might get to be fairly repetitive as the series goes on, but that’s one aspect I never seem to tire of.

One beef I had about this book was that I didn’t feel like I had a fair chance to figure out the clue. It was too hard and too distant even for me as a fairly well-read adult. I figured out how to decipher the clue, but not all the information was given. I was able to stay ahead of our heroes in the first book. I really hope that kind of mystery returns because I enjoy being able to figure things out on my own, and I’m sure there are a lot of young readers out there that feel the same way.

Jonas Wizard, the rap star of the Cahill family, comes to the forefront in this novel as well, but it’s really his dad I don’t care for. Some of the characters are really creepy and villainous, and some are just dumb, but there are others that I have to wonder about. But that’s part of the magic of this on-going mysterious soap opera. Thankfully the third book, 39 Clues: The Sword Thief comes out in two more short months.


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