Friday, December 30, 2016

The Impossible Clue by Sarah Rubin, 2017

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Math whiz Alice Jones has already cracked a mystery or two. She's smart and she's fearless, so who else would her classmates turn to? But when a famous local scientist vanishes from a locked room, Alice and her detective skills graduate to the big leagues.

Dr. Learner had been working on a top-secret invisibility suit that everyone wants. Rumor has it he's disappeared under suspicious circumstances . . . literally. But is wacky science really behind his vanishing? Or is it something more sinister? Alice won't stop until she knows the truth . . .

(304 pages)

I'm a huge sucker for mystery novels, always have been and always will be. That's why I was very pleased to have The Impossible Clue show up on my doorstep a few weeks back–it looked so perfect, like exactly the sort of absorbing and fun read that I needed.

And I was right, for the most part. This was definitely an entertaining read, and–for all my years of reading mystery novels–the plot continually took turns that I legitimately didn't see coming. At the same time, though, I had a hard time growing to like the main character Alice. She's a really smart math geek who loves puzzles and museums and all things logic. That's all great, and I can totally connect with her on a certain geeky level (even though I'm still not as good at math as she is at just twelve). The trouble, though, is that Alice is extremely sure of her own abilities . . . and aware of how they compare to everyone else's. Right from page one she's constantly judging the people around her, deciding who is worth her time, and then basically ignoring everyone else. I really felt bad for Sammy, the emotionally needy and slightly thick boy who introduces her to the case. He practically worships Alice, but she is constantly running to avoid him and tuning out when he's talking and giving him throwaway errands to run. She's flat-out rude to him many times, and even though she recognizes toward the end that she might be hurting his feelings she never seriously considers treating him more respectfully.

While I'm being negative, I'd like to also point out that I don't really think much of Alice's supposed devotion to logic and certainty. She's constantly making snap judgments about people and situations, and her deducement of what was actually going on (though certainly very clever) hinges almost entirely on shrewd guesswork. She had no proof for almost anything, so the dramatic ending is slightly ridiculous. I for one am still putting the pieces together and figuring out why her announcement even makes sense.

Now that I've got the negative bits out of the way, I'll be the first to admit that I devoured the book–flaws and all. Like I said, I adore mystery books of all shapes and sizes. This one was a fun brain-twister that kept me guessing and kept the suspense up. I thought the family dynamics were very well done, and that Alice's father was particularly realistic. He's an actual human being, just for starters! In too many middle-grade novels the parents are simply cardboard cutouts who sit in the background and let their kids run around all they like. Having him be a reporter who loved his children deeply but got incredibly wrapped up in pursuing his stories was a really good touch.

All in all, this isn't the most memorable mystery novel I've ever read but it's certainly not the worst. I quite enjoyed reading it, and I appreciate the hours of excitement it provided me. I may keep ahold of my copy and re-read it sometime just to see how it reads a second time through. If I do, I'll be sure to come back and add a postscript if I come out with a wildly different opinion!

Disclaimer: I received an unsolicited ARC of this novel from the publisher.

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