Sunday, March 22, 2009

Blast from the Past: The Postcard by Tony Abbott

Staring down at the magazine on the nightstand, I realized that the eyes of one of the menacing dagger men were glowing. Glowing! I knew what some part of my brain had already guessed: that the light wasn't actually coming from the attacker's eyes.

But where it actually was coming from was odd enough.

It was coming--I knew because I followed the tiny beam back up with my fingers--it was coming from the postcard.

There was a hole in the card, a puncture so small and yet so perfectly round, it looked as if it had been put there on purpose with the tip of a needle.

My heart fluttered. The hole had been poked through the window of one of the upstairs rooms of the hotel, as if that room was important. As if something might be found there.

Jason had never known his grandmother, a mysterious figure about whom his father almost never spoke. But when Agnes dies suddenly in her cluttered stucco house in St. Petersburg, Jason's mother insists that he go down to make sure his father doesn't drink too much while he makes arrangements to settle his mother's affairs.

Florida is hot and flat and full of strange-looking old people to Jason's Boston-raised eyes, but in going through the musty contents of the storage boxes in his grandmother's house, Jason finds a pulp mystery magazine from 1942 and reads an intriguing story which seems to have been written about Agnes by her first love, Emerson Beale. Then, when he finds a blank postcard showing the same old hotel in which the mystery begins, he is drawn to follow the cryptic clues on the postcard which promise to lead to the rest of the mystery story.

When his depressed father is hospitalized after a serious fall repairing the roof of his mother's house, Jason is suddenly free to follow the mystery where it leads. And where it leads is a surrealistic chase through "old Florida" mansions, museums, and the Twin Palms Hotel itself as it awaits demolition, pursued by a cast of derelict circus performers who hold the clues to his grandmother's tragic family life and Jason's own father's mysterious, perhaps fictional father. Along the way Jason is befriended by an intelligent and adventurous neighbor girl, Dia, who takes on the quest as if it were her own.

At the end Jason and Dia unravel the family's twisted history and find his own grandfather, the author of the pulp mystery and the only witness who can explain Jason's father's conflicted feelings and make sense of the whole story. It's an intellectual puzzle, an adventure filled with tortured secrets, long-lost friends and enemies, and dark chases through historic sites. Fans of Blue Balliett's Chasing Vermeer and sequels will find Tony Abbott's The Postcard (Junior Library Guild Selection) equally challenging and tantalizing.

Tony Abbott is the author of the best-selling Secret of Droon series.

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  • velly goot book.
    i reat eet!

    By Anonymous Redbeard, at 9:45 PM  

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