All criminals be aware: The streets are no longer safe for your nefarious activities, thanks to the kids of the New Cut Gang! Thunderbolt, Benny, Bridie and Sharkey Bob are just some of the kids who make up the New Cut Gang in Philip Pullman’s new novel, Two Crafty Criminals!. Although most of the adults in town would probably not agree, the New Cut Gang see themselves as perfect citizens whose calling in life is to rid the streets of the criminal element, even if they have to break the rules to do it. In this novel, the Gang has to solve two mysteries: Thunderbolt’s Waxwork and The Gas-Fitter’s Ball.

The New Cut Gang first has to solve the mystery of where thousands of counterfeit coins are coming from—coins that are making stores very angry. Thunderbolt is very excited to catch the counterfeiter, until his father is arrested for the crime. It is then up to the New Cut Gang to both catch the real counterfeiter and save Thunderbolt’s dad! In the next story, valuable silver is stolen. With very few clues, only the New Cut Gang can solve the mystery and win a bet by getting the incredibly shy Dick Smith to propose to the beautiful Daisy Miller. After Dick is thrown in jail for the robbery, the New Cut Gang—along with a romantic Strong-Man named Orlando—must free Dick, solve the mystery and get Dick to the Gas-Fitter’s Ball in time to meet Daisy.

Two Crafty Criminals! is very different than Pullman’s His Dark Materials series. Reminiscent of T.D. Fitzgerald’s The Great Brain and Donald Sobol’s Encyclopedia Brown, these children don’t solve mysteries to help other people, but for their own personal (and financial) gain. Full of humor, mystery, bravery and deceit, the New Cut Gang will be the group that every reader will want to join!

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