cover image Operation Red Jericho

Operation Red Jericho

Joshua Mowll, . . Candlewick, $15.99 (271pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-2634-1

Mowll's intriguing debut novel introduces siblings Becca and Doug. An opening "note to the reader" adds an air of authenticity to the fiction by identifying the author as heir to his deceased great-aunt (Becca), who had requested that he finish putting her "archive into a publishable form." Set in 1920, the elaborately plotted saga opens in Shanghai, as Becca and Doug (whose parents disappeared a year ago during a mysterious expedition to western China) arrive at a research ship captained by their uncle, their newly appointed guardian. Also on board is a French scientist who had been kidnapped by a Chinese warlord and forced to create torpedoes using a powerful explosive. The teens explore the ship in hopes of discovering why their uncle is so secretive about his South China Sea mission, and discover messages outlining the man's assignment from the board of the "Honourable Guild of Specialists," an organization whose raison d'être readers learn only at tale's end. Inquisitive, impulsive Doug and cautious, thoughtful Becca play key roles in accomplishing the complex task, which entails a dramatic showdown with the warlord. Becca's diary entries and sidebars with background information supplement the narrative, along with drawings from Doug's sketchbook, cutaway views of the ship, maps and foldout pages marked "Confidential Material." As the energetically paced story winds down, Becca and Doug make a pact to search for their parents, setting the scene for book two of the planned Guild Trilogy. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)