The Unbreakable Code
by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
Recommended Ages: 12+
The kids' curiosity is more than piqued by the possibility that Mr. Quisling might somehow be involved with a series of arson attacks – particularly when one of the fires puts Emily's life in danger and destroys the bookstore run by her friend Hollister. The identity of a Book Scavenger player calling him- or herself Coolbrith is one mystery. The solution to a puzzle more than 150 years old is another. It doesn't hurt that there may be gold at the end of the trail of clues: particularly with both kids worried about what will become of their financially challenged families. But the danger of solving the mystery might be even more pressingly real, with a dangerous firebug targeting them (among others) for revenge.
This is the second book of (currently) three in the Book Scavenger series, between Book Scavenger and The Alcatraz Escape. It's a nice entry in the growing genre of books featuring youngsters cracking puzzles that span the history and geography of a big city. For more examples of this type, see for example The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby. James, Emily and her older brother Matthew are among a growing cast of well-drawn characters who go right to your heart, particularly given Emily's vulnerability and her courage to rise to new challenges – such as getting involved in a school dance planning committee and helping her hero, the inventor of the Book Scavenger game, get his spirit of fun back after a harrowing experience in the previous book. The book closes with a tease of what may come next for the friends, among whom readers will surely count themselves.