Author: Matthew Callan
Title: Hang a Crooked Number
Publication Info: Smashwords (2013)
This mystery novel is about a catcher on a minor league baseball time on Coney Island (known in the book as the Brooklyn Hitmen as opposed to the real-life Brooklyn Cyclones) who leads a double life as an agent in a domestic spying organization that’s part CIA, part SABR. Set in a slightly dystopian near-future, the protagonist known by the codename Backstop finds himself in the middle of a crisis where there is no one he can trusts. Callan does a good job of building the tension, while revealing details of the organization. The real life story of Moe Berg, baseball player and spy, and a character called The Guru who is almost certainly a fictionalized version of Bill James grounds this story in reality. It’s an entertaining attempt at bringing together a sports story with a mystery.
Author: Rebecca Stead
Title: When you reach me
Narrator: Cynthia Holloway
Publication Info: [New York] : Listening Library, 2009.
This young adult novel is grounded in a realistic setting of New York’s Upper West Side in the 1970s with the protagonist Miranda dealing with going to school, a falling-out with a friend, and her mother appearing on a tv game show. Added to this are mystery and science fiction elements such as Miranda receiving unexplained notes that predict the future and a seemingly homeless “laughing man” having a constant presence on the street near her school. It’s a good blend of storytelling techniques that deals with children gaining independence, friendship, and second chances.
Recommended books: The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem, Tunneling by Beth Bosworth, The Time It Takes to Fall by Margaret Lazarus Dean and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Author: E.L. Konigsburg
Title: From the Mixed-up files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
Narrator: Jill Clayburgh
Publication Info: [New York] : Simon & Schuster Audio, 2011 [Originally published in 1967]
When I was in junior high school, I had an idea to write a book about a couple of kids running away from their home in suburban Connecticut, taking the train to New York City, and settling in for some adventures. I made a few attempts at starting the book but the idea never translated to the page. Which is a good thing, because if I had written that book it would have been accused of being totally derivative of From the Mixed-up files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. The story is about a brother and sister from Connecticut who take a train to New York and (in an interesting twist I hadn’t considered) move into the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It’s a good story that’s a mix of adventure and mystery with a lesson for children coming of age. Jill Clayburgh does an excellent job narrating the story as well. Now that I’ve caught up on another book I never read as a child I must endeavor to make sure my kids read it too.