Monday, October 24, 2011

Cold Case by Julia Platt Leonard

As Chapter One opens, Oz Keiller laments the blaring six o’clock Saturday morning alarm clock. By page four he’s grumbling about having to spend the day cleaning the kitchen in his family’s restaurant. On page five Oz complains to readers about his bossy older brother, Dave. Page six brings a broken light bulb outside Chez Isabelle’s door - more mess to clean up.

At this point readers might be thinking of dropping Cold Case back in the book return.

But when the blood appears on the prep table at the top of page seven, readers will find good reason to continue. And if that’s not enough to hook them, the dead body in the freezer on page eight will have them moving quickly to Chapter Two.

Julia Platt Leonard has written a great murder mystery filled with pretty much every ingredient needed for a great murder mystery for younger readers. For example:
  • Mom is out of town. In Paris. She won’t be back anytime soon.
  • A suspicious relative. Why wasn't Dave’s car home when Oz woke up Saturday morning, and why did the dead man have a note that read “D. Keiller Fri night-midnight. Use back door.”?
  • Shifty employees. One guy “disappears” for a while. Another is named Razor. You know that’s suspicious.
  • An interesting back story. Oz’s father died of a heart attack before Oz was born, but Oz learns that his father was caught stealing nuclear secrets from Los Alamos National Laboratory.
  • Present day connections to the interesting back story. The dead guy? He’s the journalist who broke the story on Oz’s dad.
  • A good friend. Rusty is Oz’s combat boot-wearing friend, and she has agreed to help solve the murder.
  • Oh yeah, and there’s a politician involved. Nothin’ more suspicious than a politician in a murder mystery.
So basically everyone is a suspect and the closer Oz gets to the truth, the more suspicious everyone seems and the more danger he is in.

Some readers with more distinguished tastes (read: grown-ups) might complain that Cold Case is a formulaic and predictable mystery. Maybe. But the young readers who double as literary connoisseurs are few and far between.

Most young readers just want a good book. And Cold Case will give them just that.

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