Simon & Schuster has announced the debut of Club CSI, a middle-grade chapter book series inspired by the CBS TV series, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Licensed through an agreement with CBS Consumer Products, Club CSI features a crew of students who band together to solve crimes and capers at their Las Vegas junior high school. The inaugural titles in the series, which is published under the Simon Spotlight imprint, are The Case of the Mystery Meat Loaf and The Case of the Missing Moola by Dave Lewman, due April 24 in simultaneous hardcover and paperback editions.

Viewed worldwide and scoring an average weekly audience of 12.83 million viewers in the U.S. alone, CSI has been the number one scripted TV show for a total of six seasons since its 2000 debut. Though the TV series is aimed at an adult audience, its forensic science theme is of growing interest to middle graders, observes Kara Sargent, editorial director of Simon Spotlight. “Forensic science is cropping up in seventh- and eight-grade school curricula, and kids that age are increasingly interested in the subject,” she says. “It’s such an exciting career path and one that is hot for young adults. So we decided that this would be a fun opportunity to create a book series under the umbrella of the CSI franchise.”

Sargent says that Club CSI is connected to the TV show by a “thin thread.” In the book series, the club members’ new science teacher mentions she has a cousin who works at a Las Vegas crime lab, giving a wink to the setting of the TV series. “It’s hinted that this cousin could possibly speak to the class at some point, or maybe even help out on a case, but that’s yet to happen,” Sargent says.

Club CSI will add two more titles by Lewman, according to Sargent – one next summer and another in the fall, and going forward, three mysteries will be released annually. Other authors will also contribute to the series.

CBS Consumer Products has previously reached out to a young audience with several other ventures tied into the CSI franchise. In 2007, it launched CSI: The Experience, an interactive exhibition that challenges visitors to solve one of three crime scenes using 15 forensic lab stations. The exhibit has toured in the U.S., Europe, and Asia, and a permanent version is now located at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Another initiative, CSI Live, is a live stage show created by Mad Science Productions in 2008 that visits schools, children’s museums, and amusement parks. Most recently, CBS Consumer Products debuted a line of CSI toys in Toys ‘R’ Us stores that use elements of forensic investigation to teach kids about that field of science.

S&S will partner with the team behind CSI: The Experience in Las Vegas to promote Club SCI at the exhibit. Lewman will appear at the series’ launch event at the Windmill Library in Las Vegas on April 25.

Club CSI has found an appropriate home with Simon & Schuster, long the publisher of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys franchises. “This is absolutely a great complement to the list,” says Sargent. “So many of us grew up reading Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, and I hope that young fans of those books will enjoy Club CSI as well.”

The Case of the Mystery Meat Loaf by Dave Lewman. Simon Spotlight, $15.99 Apr. ISBN 978-1-4424-4646-5; paper, $5.99 ISBN 978-1-4424-3394-6

The Case of the Missing Moola by Dave Lewman. Simon Spotlight, $15.99 Apr. ISBN 978-1-4424-4670-0; paper, $5.99 ISBN 978-1-4424-3395-3