by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
Recommended Ages: 12+
The day Emily and her family arrive in San Francisco (don't call it Frisco; the locals hate that), Griswold is mugged and gravely wounded in a BART station while on his way to announce the latest new game he has been developing. A bit later, Emily, Matthew and their downstairs neighbor James – a fifth-generation Chinese-American who loves puzzles and codes – inadvertently find a book with clues hidden in it, a book that Griswold's attackers want. While the kids work on what they think is only a harmless game, some dangerous people are after them.
The kids' adventure is an intriguing book lovers' tour of San Francisco, featuring local points of interest both real and fictional. It weaves in mysterious facts about Edgar Allan Poe and other authors, including a feud between Poe and a literary rival that transcended death. It mixes in a bit of rock'n'roll, some competitive cryptography, lessons about friendship and forgiveness, an object lesson in Wheaton's Law of online gaming (don't be a dick), and a game concept so clever that you'll wish someone would steal the idea and bring it into the real world. It's funny, mysterious and, now and then, a bit exciting, but all at a level a brainy kid can appreciate.
This book is the first of a (so far) three-book series. Its sequels are The Unbreakable Code and The Alcatraz Escape.