________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 41 . . . . June 24, 2011


The Emerald Casket. (The Archer Legacy; Book Two).

Richard Newsome.
Toronto, ON: HarperCollins, 2010.
378 pp., hardcover, $19.99.
ISBN 978-1-55468-666-7.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Kay Weisman.

***½ /4



The evening was mild and a slight breeze billowed the drapes, jangling the brass rings against the curtain rod. Gerald rolled over and tried to ignore the sound. The rattling continued. He sighed, then swung out of bed and padded across to the window to tie back the curtains. He tried to keep his eyes half closed so he could tumble easily back to sleep. But as he turned to go back to his bed, he froze. His heart lurched in his chest. Standing next to the bed, with a long slender blade in his hand, was the unmistakable figure of Sir Mason Green. . . .

Sir Mason put a finger to his lips. He traversed the distance between them without making a sound and raised the tip of his sword to Gerald's throat. Gerald felt the steel against his skin.

Green motioned for Gerald to sit on the bed. Gerald was in a daze. He half-stumbled to the mattress, the cool sheets registering against the back of his legs. The man crossed to the door, opened it an inch and peered through the gap, then bolted it shut.

The neatly clipped silver hair and the military bearing were the same as Gerald remembered. But as Green turned and crossed the room, his eyes seemed to bore right into Gerald's brain, right between his eyebrows.

"You know about the other caskets," Green declared.

Gerald struggled to reply. "You can have them."

Two weeks have passed since Gerald and his friends, Sam and Ruby Valentine, confronted Sir Mason Green in an ancient Roman crypt holding a casket filled with a mysterious gold rod (The Billionaire's Curse 2010). Hoping to unwind, the three accept an invitation from Mr. Gupta (owner of the Noor Jehan diamond that opened the first casket) to visit him and his daughter, Alisha, in India. The visit is anything but relaxing, however: Gerald is plagued by disturbing dreams in which Mason Green torments him; a fortuneteller accosts him in the marketplace, advising him "nothing is certain;" and Alisha is kidnapped twice by members of a local cult whose insignia is the same as Gerald's family crest. Eventually, the group navigates its way to Mamallapuram, an ancient city recently uncovered after a tsunami and the probable location of the Emerald Casket. There, they come face to face with Green, who has once again manipulated Gerald into locating the casket so that Green can pilfer its contents.

      As in the first installment, Newsome is a master at dropping clues and red herrings that move the mystery along while leaving plenty of doubts about which characters are bad guys and which ones can be trusted. The action never flags, and descriptions of various Indian locales add historical and cultural interest. Humorous side plots (Gerald's butler, the up-tight Mr. Fry, becomes enamored of Alisha's stern chaperone, Miss Turner, and the hapless Constable Lethbridge makes several cameos with his pigeons) and resurrected villains (the albino man who smells of bleach, now described as a thin man in black) add to the intrigue. Gerald is part Indiana Jones (navigating ancient booby-trapped ruins) and part Alex Rider (a sure-footed rock climber, adept with a variety of tools and weapons), and sure to appeal to middle grade readers. This book stands alone, but readers will want to catch the earlier title as well. A third volume-The Mask of Destiny, set on the Normandy coast, where hopefully Green will receive his comeuppance-is promised.

Highly Recommended.

Kay Weisman is a Master of Arts in Children's Literature candidate at the University of British Columbia.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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