Sigmund Brouwer,
The Volcano of Doom
(Bethany House, 2002)

This entry in Sigmund Brouwer's Accidental Detectives mystery series for middle-schoolers is a fast-paced read and as refreshing as a sea breeze.

Ricky Kidd, his family and his friends Mike and Lisa are in Hawaii visiting Norbert, a friend of Ricky's father, and planning to attend Norbert's wedding. Everything seems to be going swimmingly until a shark-fishing expedition goes awry and Mike gets dumped in the ocean.

Later, Mike, operating on a hunch, finds a tiny jeweled statue under unusual circumstances, Norbert disappears and a suspicious-looking character with white hair starts hanging around. But the three friends figure things out in the nick of time, using their wits and a little help from Ralphy, a computer whiz back home.

Brouwer keeps the plot tightly knit and if the young detectives fail to involve their parents, that's no different from any other mystery series for young readers. He isn't quite as adept with working in the religious aspects, and while Ricky's mini-musings about science, faith and creation are fascinating to an adult reader, I suspect they might fall on ears as unreceptive as those of his friends.

Ricky, Mike and Lisa are refreshingly credible characters, no mean feat in series fiction which is practically by its nature plot-driven. Brouwer doesn't resort to the formulaic with his young heroes. He is a little less careful with his adult characters but not by much.

There is also a good deal of humor, some of it unpredictable, such as when Ricky encounters the not-so-dead eel that his little brother is playing with or when Lisa wins a bet with unusual results.

Overall, if The Volcano of Doom is any indication, Brouwer's Accidental Detectives series is intelligent, well-paced and respectful of its audience. Mystery readers will want more.

- Rambles
written by Donna Scanlon
published 22 March 2003

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