Book Review: Hang a Crooked Number by Matthew Callan

Author: Matthew Callan
TitleHang 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.

Rating: ***

Book Review: When you reach me by Rebecca Stead

Author: Rebecca Stead
TitleWhen 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 booksThe 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
Rating: ***

Book Review: From the Mixed-up files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

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.

Rating: ***1/2