The 100-Year-Old Secret is the first title in The Sherlock Files, a new mystery series created by Tracy Barrett. Middle-grade readers are introduced to Xena Holmes, 12, and her younger brother, Xander, who have a penchant for games. The siblings accompany their mother, a product tester, on a year-long stay in London. They soon find excitement in the seemingly dreary city when they receive a cryptic invitation to join the Society for the Preservation of Famous Detectives and discover that the legendary SherlockHolmes was their great-great-great-grandfather. The SPFD hands over the famous detective's book of unresolved cases, and when another rainy day looms over Xena and Xander, the pair chooses a case to solve. The first one to catch their attention is the missing painting, "Girl in a Purple Hat," by fictional artist Nigel Batheson. The case also coincides with an upcoming Batheson exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum. With the help of some of their mother's new gadgets, Watson's great-great-great-nephew (who still carries a grudge for his ancestor's lack of limelight), and of course, deductive reasoning, it's elementary that Xena and Xander are destined to follow in the footsteps of their namesake.
LOCKED IN A TOWER
When 12-year-old Hazel Frump has another spine-tingling dream in which she suddenly finds herself in an old tower, her nine-year-old brother, Ned, is sure something bad is afoot in Jennifer Lanthier's The Mystery of the Martello Tower. While Ned is a precocious chemist, always trying to concoct the perfect stink bomb, Hazel is an inquisitive girl. Their mother passed away years ago, and Colin, their gallery owner father, claims that he has no other family. But when Colin leaves unexpectedly for a business trip to Turkey, the girl's curiosity compels her to search her father's office, where she discovers one email from Interpol about an artist's websites and another from a relative in Canada. And when the Frumps' apartment is burgled and the siblings learn that their father has been imprisoned for art fraud, they flee to their long-lost family's castle estate. As their Frump cousins reveal underground secret passages, as well as family secrets, Hazel and Ned use their wits and a few tricks to uncover a ring of art fraud thieves, free their father from jail, and finally learn the truth about their mother's death and Hazel's connection to the castle's lone tower.
COLUMBUS HAS HIS DAY
Jill Santopolo's The Nina, the Pinta, and the Vanishing Treasure kicks off an entertaining mystery series featuring Alec Flint, Super Sleuth. With his favorite sweatshirt that sports a convenient pouch and detective pens that will write even when held upside down, the adventurous fourth-grader may only be a super sleuth-in-training, but he's ready to tackle his first case when the local museum's Christopher Columbus exhibit, once full of gold coins, goes missing. His classmate, Gina, a whiz with codes, presents a mystery of her own: Ms. Blume, their art teacher, has also disappeared. Alec takes on Gina as his partner, and the pair succeeds in researching Columbus' voyages, snooping into the affairs of Ms. Blume and her acquaintances (to the chagrin of Alec's police officer father), and writing and cracking codes along the way. The twosome's sleuthing not only aids in the recovery and validation of the exhibit and the rescue of their likable teacher, it also highlights the controversies surrounding Columbus' discoveries and his treatment of Native Americans. Children will take interest in both Alec's detective work and learning more about the prominent yet often misunderstood figure from history.
DOG-EAT-DOG NEW YORK
Tim Malt and his sidekick dog, Grk, are back for their third comic adventure in Joshua Doder's Grk and the Hot Dog Trail. This time Tim, a 12-year-old English boy, is on holiday in New York City, along with his parents, best friends and of course, his faithful pooch. They pay their respects to King Jovan and Queen Rose of Stanislavia and view their Royal Highnesses' Golden Dachshund statue. This is to be the last sighting, however, as the coveted statue is stolen from the National Museum. "A fugitive, a runaway, a liar and, most importantly, a detective," Tim sneaks away from his mother and skips a flight back to England when he believes he can solve the mystery. In this fast-paced satire of crime and world politics, the boy's search for a hot dog-loving suspect, Doctor Weiner, takes him on a tour of Central Park and a trek across the Brooklyn Bridge. Employing absurd disguises and help from friends they meet along the way, Tim and Grk sneak into a hot dog factory, where the pair risks a horrible demise to restore the "hot" dog to its rightful owners.
THE POWER OF PERSUASION
Rock and pop critic for the Wall Street Journal and author of the Terry Orr thriller series for adults, Jim Fusilli switches gears with his first mystery for teens, Marley Z and the Bloodstained Violin. Almost six feet tall, with dreadlocks adding more to her height, Marley Zimmerman, 14, cannot accept the police footage that depicts Marisol, her good friend, band mate and violin prodigy, in a zombie-like trance, stealing a rare violin from the Julliard School. She believes that like the time traveler in her father's popular comic books, Marisol must have served as an "unwitting agent" for a devious thief. Determined to catch the brains behind the operation and restore the violin before it suffers any damage, the teen suspects everyone—the crazy musician who plays late at night behind Lincoln Center, her boring algebra teacher who collects violins, and even Bassekou, the son of the ambassador from Mali and a potential new band member. Flashbacks to events just before the theft will allow alert readers to solve the case right along with the spunky teenaged sleuth. Readers will particularly enjoy the energy and diversity of Marley's group of friends, which mirrors the excitement of New York City itself.