________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 22 . . . . February 20, 2012


September. (Conspiracy 365).

Gabrielle Lord.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2010.
181 pp., pbk., $7.99.
ISBN 978-1-4431-0476-0.

Grades 4-9 / Ages 9-14.

Review by Mark Mueller.

**** /4


October. (Conspiracy 365).

Gabrielle Lord.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2010.
181 pp., pbk., $7.99.
ISBN 978-1-4431-0477-7.

Grades 4-9 / Ages 9-14.

Review by Mark Mueller.

**** /4


November. (Conspiracy 365).

Gabrielle Lord.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2010.
179 pp., pbk., $7.99.
ISBN 978-1-4431-0478-4.

Grades 4-9 / Ages 9-14.

Review by Mark Mueller.

**** /4


December. (Conspiracy 365).

Gabrielle Lord.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2010.
239 pp., pbk., $7.99.
ISBN 978-1-4431-0479-1.

Grades 4-9 / Ages 9-14.

Review by Mark Mueller.

**** /4



Time was running out. We were just three kids. But then I thought about how Boges and Winter had broken me out of Leechwood Lodge Asylum, how they tricked the biometric scanner at Zurich Bank, and they'd hurled themselves at Rathbone, enabling me to escape. I realized we made a great team. We were much more than just three kids. (From October.)


      The ninth installment of the "Conspiracy 365" series begins with Callum "Cal" Ormond diving into the frigid waters of a river to rescue his sister Gabbi who had been thrown off a bridge. After he fails to find her, Cal climbs onto the riverbank where he collapses. Several minutes later, he passes out, only to be roused by Gabbi, who miraculously had awakened from her coma and escaped the rushing waters.

      After the two walk away from the riverbank, they meet up with Winter, Boges, and Sharkey. There, Cal explains to Gabbi the events that took place over the past eight months. Gabbi is shocked to learn that she was in a coma for nine months and is saddened that she missed an entire year of school. They drop her off at a local police station and then drive back to Winter's apartment where Cal logs into his blog and sees that he had received a message from a Dr. Theopolis Brinsley, a manuscript keeper at Trinity College in Dublin. Brinsley claims to be in possession of some vital information relating to the Ormond Riddle. He wants to share the information with Cal; however, he needs Cal to bring the original manuscript to Ireland. The problem is that Cal is not in possession of the riddle, and he needs to retrieve both the Riddle and the Jewel from Oriana de la Force.

      Cal and his friends decide that the best way to find out where Oriana is hiding the items is to plant a listening device in her office. Boges orders a small "bug" via the internet and modifies it to look like a small moth. He then configures a children's air pistol so that it could shoot the modified bug into Oriana's office through an open window.

      Winter is also looking for evidence to prove that Vulkan Sligo was responsible for her parents' death. She believes that her parents' wrecked car is hidden somewhere in Sligo's junkyard, and she convinces Cal to help her find it. They break into the junkyard in the middle of the night. After a run-in with Zombie's older brother in the junkyard, the two barely escape alive.

      A few days later, Cal breaks into his twin's (Ryan Spencer's) apartment and steals a bus pass. He leaves the bus pass in his mother's mailbox after scribbling the words "Who am I" on the back. Cal then goes to his friend Repro's place to find a safe place to stay. There, he is captured by "Three-O", the same thug who tried to turn him in at the fish market and is tied up with Repro. When Three-O leaves to fetch the police, the two manage to escape their bonds and flee through a collapsing tunnel.

      The following day, Cal and Boges go to Oriana's place and plant the listening device in her office. They learn that the stolen Ormond documents are locked away in the Zurich bank. Cal and Boges know that, in order to retrieve the documents, they would need the PIN number of the safety deposit box as well as a copy of Oriana's fingerprint.

      After some online research, Boges discovers a way to duplicate the fingerprint; however, they would first need an item containing Oriana's fingerprint. Cal and Winter follow Oriana to one of her favorite stores and successfully manage to attain a purse that Oriana had handled. Cal, however, is caught by one of Oriana's thugs.

      Oriana then orders Kelvin to drive Cal out to the middle of the Dingo Bones Valley where he is to put an end to Cal's life. Kelvin locks Cal into the trunk of his car and drives him out to the desert. When they arrive, Kelvin drags Cal out of the trunk and leaves him unconscious in the middle of the desert. He then shoots his gun into the sky before driving off.

      When Cal wakes up on the desert ground the following morning, he notices that Kelvin had etched "SDB-291245" on his ankle. Later, Cal is picked up by an old prospector and is taken to an isolated town where he stays the night with the prospector and his business partner.

      Cal wakes up in the middle of the night with an uneasy feeling in his stomach, and he overhears the prospector and his partner making plans on turning Cal into the police. Cal escapes from the town and into the dark night after a violent struggle with the prospector.

      This ninth installment of the "Conspiracy 365" series ends with Cal's being pursued by the two prospectors and their hunting dog in the middle of the night.


      The tenth installment of the "Conspiracy 365" series picks up the story where October ended, that is with Cal's attempting to flee from the two prospectors and their hunting dog in the middle of the night. He miraculously escapes his pursuers and manages to hitch a ride back to the city.

      When Cal arrives at the city, he visits Winter at her apartment. There, he learns that Winter had managed to escape with the purse and that Boges is working on constructing the duplicate fingerprint. Cal shows Winter and Boges the inscription on his ankle, and, at this point, the three of them do not know what it means.

      Cal believes that the lawyer, Sheldrake Rathbone, is in possession of Piers Ormond's will, and he needs to obtain it from him. When Cal asks for his advice, Nelson Sharkey advises him to spy on Rathbone in order to acquire information that they could use to blackmail him into getting the will back. When they do spy on Rathbone, Cal and Winter catch the lawyer making a secret business transaction and then burying money in his backyard. They take pictures of the lawyer burying the money before fleeing the scene.

      The following day, Boges, using a pseudonym, sends Rathbone one of the pictures via email. Cal then telephones the lawyer the following day and orders him to bring the will to the Crookwood Cemetery in exchange for the photos. Rathbone meets them at the cemetery, and then hands over the will. Cal and his friends read the will and discover that, if the "Ormond Singularity" is not claimed by its rightful owner by the end of the year, it will revert to the crown.

      A few days later, Cal accidentally runs into Repro and helps him move his belongings into his new home. When they arrive at the new home a cave Repro spots the writing on Cal's ankle. He tells Cal that the letters stand for "Safe Deposit Box" at the Zurich Bank. The two conclude that the etching on his ankle is the pin number that can be used to get into Oriana's vault. Cal now realizes that he has the second component needed to get into the vault at the Zurich bank.

      Cal, Boges and Winter then devise a plan to break into the Zurich bank. Winter will disguise herself to look like Oriana de la Force, and Boges will disguise himself to look like "Sumo". Winter would slip a clear glove containing the duplicate fingerprint on her finger and use it to get into the vault. The plan goes smoothly. However, they later discover that the jewel and the riddle are fakes. Cal then figures that Sligo must have the actual items.

      Winter advises Cal and Boges that Sligo is throwing a party to establish a connection with Oriana de la Force and her people. They convince Winter to hide a listening device in her necklace that she can use to monitor any conversations regarding the Ormond estate. A heated argument between Sligo and Oriana erupts over who is in possession of the Jewel and the Riddle. When the security discovers that the party has been bugged, the party quickly disperses. Cal and his friends also manage to escape from the premises unscathed.

      The following day, Cal and Winter break into Rathbone's office in order to see if they can find more information on the Ormond family. There, Cal discovers an entire drawer of files on the Ormond family as well as a file belonging to Winter's father, Charles Fong. Cal steals all the files and narrowly escapes the office without being caught.

      Later, Boges contacts him and reluctantly tells Cal that Uncle Rafe and Cal's mother are to be married on the 31st of October. Cal also gets a message from Dr. Leporello that a contract has been placed on Uncle Rafe's life, and that the assassination is to take place on the day of the wedding.

      On the day Cal's uncle and mother are to marry, Cal arrives early at the chapel so that he could easily hide himself in a loft beside the organ. When the assassin attempts to murder Uncle Rafe during the ceremony, Cal quickly intercedes by tossing a can of smokescreen that had been provided by Boges. While fleeing from the scene, Cal is being pursued by the police.

      The tenth installment of the "Conspiracy 365" series finishes with Cal surrounded on all sides by the police.


      The eleventh installment of the "Conspiracy 365" series starts with Cal's fleeing from the police after saving his Uncle Rafe from a potential assassination. Cal's tossing a second can of smokescreen into the air enables him to escape from the scene. The police eventually lock into his position again and chase him into the city. As they are about to catch up to him, Cal's double, Ryan Spencer, pulls him into an alleyway. Ryan says that he had been watching the chase the entire night and decided that it was time to help. Cal switches clothes with his twin before Ryan takes off to lead the police astray.

      The following day, Cal visits Winter at her apartment to see if she and Boges had managed to find out anything more about the Ormond Riddle and the Ormond family history. Boges suggests that Cal move into a tree house that they built years ago at an old friend's property since he has nowhere else to stay. He also gives Cal a GPS transmitter that he is able to hide under the sole of his shoe. Boges says that Cal can use the transmitter as a distress signal in the case of an emergency.

      When they log onto Cal's web log, they discover that someone had hacked into it and pasted the date "November 11" onto the front page. As the three of them try to make out the significance of the date, the police arrive out front of the apartment building and surround it. Cal barely manages to escape by jumping from the roof of the apartment building to the roof of another apartment building across the alleyway.

      Cal meets his ex-detective friend Sharkey at the local gym few days later to get some advice on how to travel to Ireland. Sharky informs him that he knows a very good forger of fake passports; however, the cost will be five thousand dollars. When Cal tells Winter and Boges the cost, Winter makes plans to steal the money from Vulkan Sligo and is successful.

      Several days later, Cal schedules an appointment to meet with Eric Blair. He is accosted by two thugs on the way to Blair's office downtown and is taken to Murray "Toe Cutter" Durham's home in the suburbs. Durham is an old criminal who is deathly ill, and he wants to make a confession to Cal. Years ago, Durham and a companion were hired to kidnap two twin boys and kill them. When Durham was not able to bring himself to do it, he separated the two boys. The first boy, Cal, was left in the warehouse in order to be found by the police at a later time. The second boy, Samuel, was handed over to a single mother. The second boy is Ryan Spencer.

      At the end of the week, Cal receives several text messages from Winter one stating that Boges had taken in by the police for questioning. Cal is tackled by a local police officer while he is trying to respond. Sharkey comes to his aid and presents the fake passport to the officers thus saving Cal from arrest.

      The following day, Cal attempts to reach Winter via telephone, he is unsuccessful. He then goes to the beach where Winter had asked to meet him in a previous text message. When he arrives at the beach, he runs into Griff Kirby who tells Cal that he saw Winter being thrown into a black Subaru by two of Sligo's thugs. They run to Sligo's junkyard to see "Zombie Two" locking up a shipping container. Cal and Kirby are suddenly accosted by Sligo's thugs and tossed into the container where they discover Winter's seemingly lifeless body.

      The eleventh installment of the "Conspiracy 365" series finishes with Cal, Winter, and Griff locked up in the container and facing almost certain death.


      The final installment of the "Conspiracy 365" series starts with Cal's holding Winter's cold and apparently lifeless body on the floor of the shipping container. He manages to revive her, and, as time goes by, Cal remembers the GPS transmitter that was hidden in the sole of his shoe. He activates the distress signal and waits for Boges to come to their aid. As they are waiting, Winter relates the events leading up to Sligo's tossing her into container. The previous day, she had discovered her parents' wrecked car in Sligo's junkyard and had confronted him with the evidence that he was behind her parents' deaths. He first denied her accusation but later exploded angrily and had her tossed into the container by his thugs. After she finishes telling the story, the three of them are rescued by Boges and Sharkey.

      Sharkey drops Cal, Winter and Boges off at the tree-house and advises them to "lay low". Winter still needs to attain her passport and the money that she stole from Sligo from her apartment. Cal and Boges volunteer to retrieve the items and are able to do so.

      Cal's sister, Gabbi, phones him later on the same night and tells him that their mother had a major fight with Uncle Rafe. Gabbi is petrified, and Cal pays her a visit in order to calm her down. While he is at the old house, he snoops around to see if he can find anything related to the Ormond mystery. He finds a number of letters that Rafe wrote to his father regarding the kidnappings. He also finds the Ormond Riddle and the Ormond Jewel in his mother's purse. Cal leaves the house in a state of confusion and wondering who in his family took the items from him. Cal receives another call from Sharkey that night, and Sharkey informs Cal that he was able to acquire the plane tickets to Ireland.

      With less than two weeks left to solve the mystery of the Ormond family, Cal and his friends manage to fly to Ireland. There, he tries to follow in the footsteps of his father in order to work out all the clues to the mystery. He and the gang are also pursued by Cal's enemies from Australia.

      The final book of the series like the other books in the series - contains enough plot twists and revelations that would keep even the most reluctant reader on edge until the very last page. The reader of this review will have to find out for him/herself what those twists and revelations are. The conclusion of the series is very well written and would be satisfying for readers of all ages.

      December could be read as a stand-alone, though it would be more satisfying to read the entire series. I would recommend this series to any reader ages 10 and up. The storyline is captivating, and the characters are well developed. The entire series is written in a language that is accessible and easy to understand. The recaps from the previous book at the beginning of the next month's book are also a nice feature especially for beginning readers. Though I would recommend the series more for reading outside the classroom as opposed to inside the classroom, I would still highly recommend the series to any reader. The "Conspiracy 365" series would be especially good for a summer reading program geared towards teens.

Highly Recommended.

Mark Mueller is the Education Librarian at Tyndale University College in Toronto, ON.

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

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