Kay, so I doubt the ten-year-olds are having this problem, but Scholastic is publishing the books too quickly! I'm having trouble keeping up! I guess I should just be thankful I'm not trying to keep up with the Conspiracy 365 series by Gabrielle Lord. That's being published each month. (Although, when I was a teen, I was all about the Fearless series by Francine Pascal. But I quit that around book seven or eight.)
Appetizer: In Too Deep doesn't start out too deep...or rather, a better term would be "too tense." Amy, Dan and their au pair, Nellie have arrived in Sydney, Australia, not on the hunt for one of the 39 clues but on the hunt for connections to their parents, who the siblings have learned travelled to Australia before their deaths.
Of course, as Amy and Dan reconnect with their father's old best friend, the extended Cahill family won't leave them in peace (and this includes the unexpected appearance of a new Kabra, who'd previously stuck to the sidelines).
So, I absolutely love the contrast between the cover image, the book title and the opening paragraph! The book begins: "The sound of rushing water filled Amy Cahill's ears."
Right there. I knew she was in a plane descending to the bottom of a lake or an ocean! Oh the dramas!
But then, the story continues: "If she kept her eyes closed, she could imagine she was standing under a beautiful tropical waterfall. Unfortunately, she was hiding in an airport bathroom" (p. 1).
Oh, Jude Watson and the cover designers, you had me going there.
I think I implied it previously, when I reviewed Beyond the Grave, the fourth book in the series, but thus far Ms. Watson is my favorite among the 39 Clues writers. In this book, I couldn't help but notice how well she integrates some of the previous Cahill adventures into her story. (I appreciated this because all of the books are running together. And since I can't keep up with the series, there's no way I could possibly find the time to go back and RE-read).
I did have a little trouble with the pacing of In Too Deep. This book seemed more relaxed (that's not to say there aren't tense moments? Exploring an opal mine only to have poisonous spiders and a deadly snake dropped into the the pit, cutting off the only exit, anyone?). But, when I was about three quarters of the way through the book, I kept flipping through the remaining pages, wondering why isn't this over yet? We'd had emotional upheaval (by the way, I don't understand how these kids will trust anyone EVER again. EVER! There is not a person in the world who does not have ulterior motives when it comes to them.), Dan and Amy were moving on to a new country
(Indonesia. They explore some of the history surrounding the Krakatau eruption)...But, why is this book still going? I felt like the new territory could have belonged in the seventh book.
But as I kept reading, the answer became apparent: More emotional upheaval ahead! Funz!
In this installment, Irina's characterization is explored in more depth. And she makes some difficult choices that made me like her a lot.
I was also drawn in by the murderous Isabel Kabra. That is one heartless lady. Like psychotic killer heartless. Vile villain heartless. In no way redeemable heartless (and kids, I'm someone who found redeemable aspects in Tom Riddle/Lord Voldemort).
I thought it was an interesting touch to bring in such a sinister character. Because most of the "bad guys" that the Cahill siblings have faced so far have all gradually been debunked from being pure-evil. Untrustworthy still? A few psychotic tendencies when you get in their way? Yes and yes! But not evil.
"She and Dan could be off on a tangent. This trip might not lead to a Clue. They had no evidence that it would. But they had both known the moment they saw [their parents'] passports where they were headed next. They didn't even have to exchange a word" (p. 4).
"Throw a roo on the barbie, mate!"
Amy winced as the bad Australian accent crashed against her ears. Then she cringed as she saw Dan dressed in an Australian bush hat and a safari jacket. He had a fake rubber snake wrapped around his neck.
"You call this a low profile?" she hissed, swiping the hat off his head and stuffing it in the side pocket of her pack.
"What was I supposed to do in the airport shop?" Dan asked. "I had to buy something" (p. 5).
"You have been resourceful, I give you that, " Irina said. "You think on your feet, you and your brother. But there comes a time when you must think deeper. You must face the thing you don't want to face. Until you do that, you're vulnerable."
"To someone who will tell you what you want to hear," Irina said. "So I ask again. What happened the night of the fire?" (pp. 55-56).
Tasty Rating: !!!