As I read The 39 Clues series, the stories remind me of the game when someone starts a story, and the next one adds to it, trying to top the previous storyteller. Five different authors have now written books in the series. It's hard to top the first one, The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan. Patrick Carman didn't top Riordan with the fifth book, The Black Circle, but he may have matched him.
Amy and Dan Cahill continue the hunt in the dangerous contest that pits family members against each other to claim power over the world. Early one morning, a telegram arrives at their Cairo hotel, with comments they thought they shared only with their deceased grandmother. They sneak out, leaving their cat and Nellie, their au pair, behind, only to find their early morning escapade leads straight to Russia.
Someone is helping Amy and Dan on this leg of the hunt. The mysterious person provides them with a credit card, false passports, and disguises that get them into the country. Feeling threatened by the powerful Lucian branch of the family, the two youngsters agree to cooperate with the Holts. Together, the two groups criss-cross Russia, trying to escape the Lucians. It's a hunt that takes them to sites associated with Rasputin and the Romanovs. Along the way, they learned about the Russian Revolution and the Road of Bones, visit the Kremlin, and search for the greatest lost Russian treasure, the Amber Room.
It's a treasure hunt for clues, with chases, danger, helicopters, bones, coffins. It's the story of two young people on their own in a strange country, provided help by an unknown person. And, all along, Amy and Dan don't know if someone is helping them, or leading them astray.
I always remind myself that these books are meant for readers from 9 to 12. I'm not the target audience for the books and the game. Even so, I'm still looking for likable, adventurous characters, and a fast-paced story. As an adult reader, I'm always looking for the historical elements in the books. The Black Circle has adventure and exciting history. It's one of the best stories in the series, so far. The next author won't have an easy task, living up to Carman and Riordan. The Black Circle is going to be hard to top.
As I've said before, the books are only part of The 39 Clues experience. I'm satisfied with the books, but young readers can join the hunt at www.the39clues.com.
The Black Circle (The 39 Clues Series #5) by Patrick Carman. Scholastic, ©2009. ISBN 9780545060455 (hardcover), 176p.