Put brain-teaser strength puzzles, mystery, music and middle schoolers on a page, mix well, enjoy.
The Puzzler's Mansion by Eric Berlin is a good read from start to finish. There is an interesting mix of characters, the storyline moves along at a good pace and the puzzles add an extra dose of fun. This is by far my favorite of the Winston Breen series.
In Puzzler's Mansion Winston, along with his best friends, is invited for a weekend of puzzles at the home of a world-renowned musician. The games begin and are almost immediately interrupted by a crime. Winston, Mal and Jake spend the rest of the weekend solving puzzles and attempting to solve the mystery of the theft, both as victims and suspects.
The premise of this novel is original, the characters are fairly well-drawn and the puzzles are definitely challenging. The story is also nicely paced and unpredictable, which kept me reading. And though this book is written for ages 8 and up the puzzles will challenge even adult readers, something not lost on this age group. Thankfully Berlin weaves puzzle solutions into the text for the puzzles whose answers are critical to the storyline, as solving all of them would have slowed me quite a bit and I was anxious to know what happened next.
Though some of the characters are a bit stereotypical and there are a few gaps in the story, the action and intrigue make this book well worth reading. I could envision using it as a read-aloud, pausing where the puzzles are inserted to allow students time to solve them. (The puzzles from the story are available for free download at http://winstonbreen.com/). One of the most common queries I get in the media center is for mysteries and action/adventure stories. This book combines the best of both worlds in a novel that will appeal to fans of both genres.
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