cover image Liars


P. J. Petersen. Simon & Schuster, $15 (169pp) ISBN 978-0-671-75035-0

Sam, an eighth grader living with his widowed father in a small California town, has been experiencing ``surges'' in his arms whenever someone is lying. His accuracy rate astounds him, as does the many people wont to fib--his own dad included. Equally disturbing are the rash of crimes targeted at an eccentric miner who is convinced his hidden maps will lead to gold. Sam and his best friend Marty intend to find the culprit, and their dangerous quest yields a most unlikely villain. Petersen ( Would You Settle for Improbable? ) captures rural America perfectly via the story's dialogue and Sam's winsome first-person narrative. Yet a sprinkling of red herrings contribute to a lumbering pace, and the few suspenseful moments barely compensate. Moreover, a perplexing transition--from Sam's talent for ``water witching'' (the ability to detect underground water) to his unearthing liars--may prove objectionable to some readers. Ages 10-14. (June)