Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City

Kirsten Miller, Author . Bloomsbury $16.95 (387p) ISBN 978-1-58234-960-2

Narrator Ananka Fishbein recounts life as sidekick to Kiki Strike, girl detective, in this deliciously entertaining debut novel. The girls meet at age 12 in a ritzy private school, when both independently discover the Shadow City—a 19th-century labyrinth of tunnels 50 feet below Manhattan's Chinatown, built to hide smuggled goods. At school, disaffected Ananka's main goal is to befriend the mysterious Kiki, whom she follows stealthily. For reasons not made clear until late in the story, Kiki recruits Ananka and four girls with talents in chemistry, forgery, disguise and mechanics for the Irregulars, a troupe to comb the underground finding gold, cash, furs, cadavers and huge, live rats. New York sophistication alone cannot account for these girls' preternatural moxie (one runs her own nail salon). Parents are conveniently absent, and there are holes in the plot as wide as the tunnels in the Shadow City. But Miller's humor and outrageous vision will carry readers over the potholes. The "tips" that end each chapter slow the pace, but will certainly amuse readers (e.g., "In particularly dangerous situations, you may want to choose fabrics, such as wool or silk, that won't easily catch on fire or melt under extreme heat"). Better still, the author's love for New York's nooks and crannies shines from every page, making this a rare adventure story that could also launch a walking tour. Ages 10-14. (June)

Reviewed on: 06/12/2006
Release date: 05/01/2006
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Paperback - 387 pages - 978-1-59990-092-6
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