Sunday, May 03, 2020

Another Perspective:Notorious by Gordon Korman

"It's amazing how everything seems different when you look at it from another prospective."

If anyone ever had a different perspective suddenly imposed on him, it's Keenan. From an exiting life as globe-trotting expatriate with his mom and step-dad, Keenan suddenly finds himself ill with an acute case of tuberculosis, removed from friends, school, his Shanghai high-rise apartment a free-run of the city to recover with his dad on an oddball island in the middle of the St. Clair river, which boasts only a lighthouse set smackdab on the border between Canada and the U.S.
Forget Shanghai, where Mom and Klaus teach at an international school. My dad made a huge stink that I had to come back to the States for my treatment. So here I am, shivering with a low-grade fever under a blanket in his backyard, staring at Canada.

I can't even watch TV, because Dr. Sobel wants me outside in the fresh air. Lifting a paper clip takes all the energy I've got.

But Keenan's boredom is broken by a surprise visitor, a girl who crawls out of the bushes with a too-cute cocker spaniel and starts interrogating him. She says her parents, "a couple of old nerds", named her Zarabeth for someone on Star Trek but he can call her ZeeBee. Keenan's not sure he wants to call her anything, but at least a talk with her and her spaniel Barney Two are, at their worst a break in his boredom. And talk is what ZeeBee does, as she tells him all about the island, "the gangster capital of North America," famous for nefarious Prohibition-era gangsters of the 1920s who lived there--Al Capone, of course, and and Machine-Gun Ferguson, famous for successfully hiding a fortune in gold bars on the island. Zeebee even confides that the house she lives in was once the mansion of Machine-Gun himself and that she is 100% convinced that a gang of gold hunters is surveilling their house and stalking her family.
"I'm 100% convinced that ZeeBee is a certified nutcase."

Keenan is really more interested in ZeeBee's sweet and devoted dog, whom she seems to hate, and she explains that her real dog, the original Barney, was despised by the entire island for his misdeeds and was murdered, a crime she is dead set on exposing.

However, as Keenan recovers, he finds himself a sidekick in ZeeBee's case, joining her in sleuthing out the many citizens whose property her late bad dog Barnie has destroyed to pin his murder on them. But when one night when Zee's family is out, they return to find their house "tossed" (as her Canadian border officer father terms it), and Keenan realizes that Zarabeth has been right all along--that there must be a gang of crooks still hoping to find Machine-Gun Ferguson's treasure trove. And cleaning up her living room, the two discover the key to a map of the island, on which, when placed just so in the room, a beam of sunlight points to the site of Machine-Gun's golden hoard.

It's quite an absorbing detective tale of purloined gold, canine assassination, and ruthless treasure seekers confronted in the dead of night in Gordon Korman's comedic middle-school sleuth story, Notorious (Balzer and Bray, 2020), in which the veteran author offers a satisfying tale of friendships made and lost and made again in a fireworks-filled cliff-hanger, a story fittingly written for a main character split from his old life and an island divided by an international border.
"In the end, what's a border, really? A white line some guy painted long ago. Big deal."

Gprdam Korman is a slick writer in the best sense of the term, one who consistently turns out polished middle-school novels that are simultaneously funny and yet meaningful. He is also the author of the top-selling Schooled, The Unteachables, Ungifted, and Masterminds.

Says School Library Journal"... "A diverting read full of suspense and historical intrigue.”

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