cover image Pieces and Players

Pieces and Players

Blue Balliett. Scholastic Press, $17.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-545-29990-9

Calder, Petra, and Tommy from Chasing Vermeer and its sequels join forces with Zoomy from The Danger Box and Early from Hold Fast to investigate the “biggest art robbery ever to happen in the United States”: the heist of 13 paintings and sculptures from a small Chicago museum. Though the story’s museum is fictional, Balliett borrows the outline of a real crime—the 1990 theft of artwork worth $500 million from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum—for her plot. As in her previous mysteries, chance and coincidence drive the action, and the narrative is salted with repeated motifs and literary allusions. The eighth-grade sleuths, summoned to help because a museum trustee believes they will do detective work that the adult investigators are incapable of doing, use prime numbers, Mother Goose rhymes, and messages in dreams and from a ghost to crack the case. (The FBI may want to invest in its own Ouija board.) Fans of Balliett’s previous work will find and enjoy the same meld of puzzling mystery and art history in this adventure. Ages 8–12. Agent: Doe Coover, Doe Coover Agency. (Mar.)