________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 6 . . . . October 7, 2011

cover

May. (Conspiracy 365).

Gabrielle Lord.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2010.
181 pp., pbk., $7.99.
ISBN 978-1-4431-0233-9.

Grades 4-9 / Ages 9-14.

Review by Mark Mueller.

**** /4

   
cover

June. (Conspiracy 365).

Gabrielle Lord.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2010.
181 pp., pbk., $7.99.
ISBN 978-1-4431-0473-9.

Grades 4-9 / Ages 9-14.

Review by Mark Mueller.

**** /4

cover

July. (Conspiracy 365).

Gabrielle Lord.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2010.
181 pp., pbk., $7.99.
ISBN 978-1-4431-0474-6.

Grades 4-9 / Ages 9-14.

Review by Mark Mueller.

**** /4

   
cover

August. (Conspiracy 365).

Gabrielle Lord.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2010.
179 pp., pbk., $7.99.
ISBN 978-1-4431-0476-3.

Grades 4-9 / Ages 9-14.

Review by Mark Mueller.

**** /4

   

excerpt:

The sound of screaming woke me up with a violent jolt. My hazy nightmare with the white toy dog and the crying baby had blended in with the very real, desperate cries of the people in this place. My dazed confusion lasted only a second before I accepted the equally horrible reality: that I'd been kidnapped and locked up in Leechwood Lodge, a psychiatric institution inhabited by homicidal maniacs, the mentally insane and now me. (From Conspiracy 365 (May).)


In the fifth installment of the "Conspiracy 365" series, Callum "Cal" Ormond finds himself locked away in the Leechwood Lodge Asylum after being knocked out by an injection. There, he discovers from a Dr. Snudgeglasser that he was later checked into the hospital under the name of Benjamin Galloway by Vulcan Sligo.

      Over the next few days, Cal tries his best to convince the doctor that Sligo is a criminal and that he is the fugitive, Callum Ormond. The doctor, however, does not believe him and insists that Cal advise him about the whereabouts of some papers.

      As the weeks pass by, Cal makes several failed attempts to escape from the asylum. One day, an inmate in the asylum has a breakdown and manages to get a hold of a knife. Cal uses this opportunity to break into one of the offices to send an e-mail to his friend Boges. He advises Boges that he is locked up in the Leechwood Asylum under the name of Ben Galloway and that he needs his help to escape.

      Several days later, Boges and Winter Frey visit "Ben" at the asylum with a disguise that would enable Cal to escape. After dressing up as Winter, Cal manages to escape from the asylum with Boges. Cal then hitchhikes to his Great-uncle Bartholomew's place in Mount Helicon.

      On the way to Mount Helicon, Cal makes a stop at Melba Snipe's house and stays there for the night. The following day, he arrives at Bartholomew's place and spends several days with his uncle. Bartholomew informs Cal more about the mysterious "Ormond Jewel" that was bequeathed to a distant Irish ancestor, "Black Tom Butler". Bartholomew also discovers that Cal had been bugged by Oriana de la Force's people, and the bug is removed after a painful operation. Over the new few days, Bartholomew explains to Cal that there are more documents related to their family's history in a folder that his ex-wife took with her after she left him. Bartholomew also advises Cal to contact his great-aunt Millicent Ormond and to ask her more details of the family history. Cal then breaks into the ex-wife's house to retrieve the document.

      While Cal is at Bartholomew's ex-wife's house, Kelvin and Sumo break into the house and set fire to the premises. When Cal arrives at the house in order to assist his uncle, he finds Bartholomew laying on the floor and dying of a heart attack. Bartholomew advises Cal to leave him be and to flee the premises by flying the jet that he has in the garage to the Dimityville Airfield.

      After a brief flight, Cal sees that the airfield is surrounded by the local police, and he decides to make a crash landing in a football field nearby. The May edition of "Conspiracy 365" finishes with the question as to whether or not Cal will be able to flee from the crash site without being engulfed by flames.

      In the sixth volume in the series, June, Callum "Cal" Ormand escapes from the crash site and flees into the forest where he is then pursued by Kelvin and Sumo. After dodging his pursuers, Cal goes into a store located in the town of Big River. There, he contacts his friend Boges to update him on his latest discoveries regarding the Ormond Jewel and his family history. Boges and Cal figure out that they need to do more research on Cal's ancestor, Black Tom Butler.

      After speaking with Boges, Cal hides out in a Scout Hall in Waratah for several days while the police search the entire area for his whereabouts. Over the next few days, Cal tries to contact one of his dad's old work colleagues, Eric Blair, in order find out more about more about his dad's research in Ireland. The secretary at Eric's office reports that Eric has been off work for several months due to a long-term illness. Cal also contacts another one of his father's colleagues, Jennifer Smith, and arranges for her to send a USB key of pictures taken by his father to Boges.

      Several days later, when a train passes by the scout house, Cal hitches a ride and takes the train back to his home town. When he arrives at the central station, he arranges to meet Boges in person. Boges takes Cal to a friend's abandoned trailer located in an empty lot in the middle of the country. Since the trailer is abandoned, it should be a safe place for Cal to stay until the police stop searching the area. When Cal and Boges arrive at the trailer, they look at the pictures that Jennifer Smith had mailed to Boges. Many of the pictures on the USB key are of Cal's father in front of various ancient castles that both he and Eric Blair visited in Ireland. At this point, both Cal and Boges resolve to find Eric Blair and inquire in greater detail about the trip to Ireland.

      Several days later, Boges, when visits Cal at the trailer, he is followed by Sumo. Cal and Boges flee from the site to a clock tower located at a neighborhood mall. After Boges goes home, Cal literally bumps into Griff Kirby, a teen runaway he had met on a previous trip back to his home city. Griff advises Cal that he has a job in the auto trade and that, if he ever needs money, to give him a call. Later on the same day, Boges contacts Cal and advises him about an alternative living arrangement, a temporarily vacant mansion at Crystal Beach.

      One day, while piecing together the pieces of the Ormond puzzle, Boges and Cal guess that Sligo is most likely in possession of the Ormond Jewel which had been stolen from the Ormond household in January. They also know that, in order to retrieve the jewel, they would need to break into Sligo's house. The problem is that, since Sligo has recently moved, they need to find out the address of his new place of residence. Because Winter is reluctant to tell Cal the new address, the two of them resort to purchasing the information from one of Boges's work colleagues for $400.00.

      Cal contacts Griff to find out about the possibility of getting a job in the auto trade. Griff advises Cal that he can take home $500.00 if he were to assist him with a job later that night. Cal agrees to do so and arranges to meet Griff and three other people in an underground garage. When Cal arrives at the scene, he discovers that Griff and his friends are arranging to carjack a woman's red sports car. Cal intervenes and prevents the thugs from stealing the car. The grateful woman gives Cal a ride to the other end of the city and gives him one of her business cards. Cal learns that the woman's name is Belinda Quick and that she is an attorney of law.

      The following day, Boges contacts Cal and advises him that his work colleague has given him Sligo's new address. Cal then pays a visit to his friend Repro and convinces him to help him crack the safe in Sligo's residence. Later that day, with the help of Winter, Cal and Repro break into the house and crack the safe. Cal retrieves the Ormond Jewel after Cal sees a picture of Winter wearing the Ormond Jewel. Just then, Sligo and two of his thugs rush into the room.

      Cal and Repro steal a truck from Sligo's backyard and flee the premises. The two abandon the truck at a local beach where Cal steals a hang-glider to escape Sligo and his thugs. After landing at Zenith Beach, Cal discards the hang-glider and is later picked up by the local police. The police take him back to the station and hold Cal in a cell for questioning.

      Cal manages to steal one of the police officers' ID cards and keys and escapes from the police station. He takes a police car from the lot and flees the station. Cal jumps out of the police car at local a beach and swipes a jet-ski. He is then pursued by the police via water into a harbor. There, Cal is plunged into the water after crashing into a large wave generated by a local ferry. Cal finds himself hopelessly entangled in a drift net and in the very real danger of drowning.

      The June edition of "Conspiracy 365" concludes with readers questioning whether Cal will be able to free himself from the drift net.

      At the beginning of the July installment of "Conspiracy 365." Callum "Cal" Ormond is still caught in the fishing net. Just as Cal is about to drown, he is hoisted onto a ship, the Star of Mykonos, crewed by a group of rogue fisherman. The ship's captain takes pity on Cal and hides him while the Coast Guard, that had been following Cal in the June volume, searches the ship. After the Coast Guard leave the ship without finding Cal, the captain hires Cal on as a crew member.

      When the Star of Mykonos docks at a local harbor, Cal is hired by a store owner to help make a delivery of fish to one of the stores. As Cal is making the delivery, he is accosted by a thug who recognizes him as Callum Ormond. The thug pushes Cal into the freezer and locks the door. Cal manages to escape from the freezer and returns to the mansion on the beach. He then contacts Boges to advise his friend that he is okay and to ask him to find any information that he can on his great-aunt, Millicent Ormond.

      Several days later, Cal is finally able to contact his father's colleague, Eric Blair, in order to inquire about the Ormond family history. Eric advises Cal that he had been ill for quite some time and is unable to aid him at the present time. Though Cal leaves Eric his cellular phone number, he later realizes that that particular number is no longer active.

      Cal meets with Boges, and Boges gives him the address of Great-aunt Millicent Ormond as well providing him with a new cellular telephone. Millicent lives in a town called "Manresa", Redcliffe. Cal makes plans to visit his aunt in Redcliffe, even if it means his having to walk there on foot.

      Cal then contacts Winter by telephone, and she advises him that she overheard Sligo talking about an inscription written inside the Ormond Jewel. He asks Winter about the photograph that he saw in Sligo's vault, the one of her wearing the Ormond Jewel. She swears that she has never seen the jewel before and that the image must have been doctored using a photo editing program.

      Cal starts his journey to Redcliffe and arrives a week later to find out that Manresa is a convent. There, he speaks with a Sister Jerome who advises him that his great-aunt is a nun who was renamed Sister Perpetua and that she has not spoken for 30 years. Cal insists that it is crucial for him to speak with Sister Perpetua. When she sees Cal, she mistakes him for Uncle Bartholomew, and she begins to talk. She tells Cal a story of how two twins were split up at the time of their birth. After the meeting, Cal begins to suspect that the "double" that he has seen over the past few months could possibly be his twin brother.

      Later on that night, Cal is awakened by the sound of someone in the hallway. When he peers outside his door, his discovers that one of Sligo's men, Zombrovski or "Zombie", is dressed up as a nun and is searching the rooms. Cal packs his knapsack and tries to escape from the convent. Zombie pursues Cal and manages to corner him up in the belfry. There, Zombie attempts to knock Cal out of the belfry by swinging a large bell into him. The plan backfires when Cal jumps out of the way and the bell swings back into Zombie, knocking him out of the tower and sending him to his death.

      Cal manages to escape from the convent when the police arrive at the scene to investigate Zombie's death. He returns to the mansion at the beach and changes his appearance. He meets with Boges who advises him that he has managed to find the inscription written in the Ormond Jewel "Amor et suevre tosjors celer". When they log-on to Cal's blog, they see a massage written to Cal from a "Sheldrake Rathbone", a lawyer claiming to be in charge of the Ormond estate. Cal contacts the lawyer who advises Cal that one of his clients is in possession of some important documents. Rathbone also advises Cal that his client would like to meet with him to exchange information on the family history. Later that day, Cal meets with Winter at her house. The two of them analyze the Ormond Riddle in greater detail and conclude that the two are inextricably linked.

      A few days later, Cal receives a message from the criminal lawyer Oriana de la Force on his blog. She asks him to form a partnership with her in solving the mysteries surrounding the Ormond family. She also advises Cal to contact Sheldrake Rathbone to discuss the partnership in greater detail. When Cal does contact Rathbone, the lawyer advises Cal that Oriana is the client who is in possession of the important family documents. Rathbone also advises Cal that Oriana would like to arrange a meeting so that the two of them might exchange documents. Cal reluctantly agrees to exchange documents at a funeral parlor co-owned and operated by Rathbone's brother. After Cal makes the arrangements, Boges and Winter insist on accompanying him to the funeral parlor.

      When Cal arrives at the funeral parlor, he is knocked out by an unidentifiable assailant and is locked inside an empty casket. The assailant(s) then toss the casket into a vehicle and drive Cal to an unknown destination. There, they proceed to bury Cal alive at an unknown grave.

      The July edition of "Conspiracy 365" leaves readers questioning whether Cal will be able to escape from being buried alive.

      At the beginning of August, the eighth installment of "Conspiracy 365", Callum "Cal" Ormond is still buried alive. Although Cal is drugged from the assault in the funeral parlor, he somehow manages to retrieve his cellular phone and contact Winter and Boges. The two of them arrive at the graveyard where Cal has been buried but are unable to locate him. They eventually phone the police when they realize that Cal is running out of air.

      Lacking air, Cal passes out but later awakens to find himself in the Armitage District Hospital. There, he learns that the police were able to dig him out of the grave but that he is under arrest. Cal is visited a short time later by Senior Sergeant Dorian McGrath who questions Cal intensely about the whereabouts of Gabbi. When Cal questions the sergeant over his accusations, he finds out that Gabbi had been kidnapped and that his DNA had been found at the scene of the crime. The officer invites Cal's mother and his Uncle Rafe to the hospital a few days later to try and convince Cal to reveal the whereabouts of Gabbi. Cal tries his hardest to convince his family and the police officer that he does not know where Gabbi is; however, they do not believe him. Cal makes a vow to himself to find Gabbi and prove his innocence to his family.

      One night, Cal discovers a piece of a scalpel blade in his room and that inspires him to devise a plan to escape from the hospital. His plan to use the scalpel blade to cut his ties and to climb into the air ducts. When Cal manages to exit the doors of the hospital, he discovers that the entire premises are surrounded by the police. Cal narrowly escapes from the police when he is aided by the ex-police detective Nelson Sharkey who advises Cal that he believes he is innocent and that he will do what he can to help him find Gabbi.

      Cal goes to Winter's house where he updates Winter and Boges about the charges against him regarding Gabbi's kidnapping and how the ex-detective, Nelson Sharkey, helped him escape. Cal also expresses concern that his double might have something to do with Gabbi's abduction.

      After leaving Winter's house, Cal contacts Sharkey and arranges to meet with him at a local health facility. Sharkey advises him that he believes that Cal is innocent of the charges laid against him by the media and that he would help Cal find Gabbi. At a later point, Sharkey also suggests that Cal visit a woman named "Ma Little" who could help him contact Gabbi's kidnappers. When Cal visits "Ma Little", she says that she would look into getting a name for Cal and that someone would contact him with the name.

      A few days later, Cal returns to Winter's place and is contacted by the kidnappers. Cal tells them that he will exchange himself, as well as all the documents on the Ormond Riddle, for Gabbi. The kidnappers agree to meet with Cal and advise him that they would contact him at a later date to arrange for a place to meet.

      While waiting to again hear from the kidnappers to contact him, Cal and his friends arrange to "double-cross" the kidnappers. Winter makes copies of the pictures and makes slight changes to them. Boges and Sharkey make plans to rush the kidnappers after the exchange takes place.

      The kidnappers contact Cal and arrange for him to meet them at the large bridge in Billabong. The plan to "double-cross the double-crossers" does not go according to plan, and one of the kidnappers tosses Gabbi into the Spring Ridge River.

      The August edition of "Conspiracy 365" finishes with readers wondering if Cal will be able to save his sister from drowning.

      The second four "Conspiracy 365" books deliver enough suspense, conspiracies, cliff-hangers and plot-twists to continue to engage their readers. Though the plot line in the June book is quite slow, the intense scenarios and plot lines in the July and August books make up for it.

      The "Conspiracy 365" books would be good reads for beginner and reluctant readers because the books are so accessible. This reader/reviewer continues to like the fact that each book in the series begins with a summary of the events that took place in the previous installment. The cliff-hangers at the end of each book also continue to draw this reader's interest in reading the next installment. This series is also good because it shows its readers the benefits of reading and being well-educated as Cal, Winter and Boges attempt to crack the Ormond Riddle.

      This librarian will certainly recommend this series to any reluctant reader and will also include this series in his collection.

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.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
 

NEXT REVIEW | TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR THIS ISSUE - October 7, 2011.

AUTHORS | TITLES | MEDIA REVIEWS | PROFILES | BACK ISSUES | SEARCH | CMARCHIVE | HOME