The Explorer’s Code, Allison K. Hymas

“Good advice is always certain to be ignored, but that’s no reason not to give it.”

–Agatha Christie

Idlewood Manor is about to be torn down.

In a rare show of generosity, its cantankerous caretaker Mr. Llewellyn opens the manor doors to ten groups from different walks of life. At face value, it’s just a weekend romp, a chance to experience the discomforts and delights of a bygone era. But each group has its own secret. One group is constantly looking under chairs and peeping through keyholes. A man wanders around the grounds with a stick that looks suspiciously like a metal detector. A young couple flees each time the other guests approach them.

Anna, Charlie, and Emily begin investigating the mystery of Idlewood Manor independently. Gradually, Anna’s fearless exploration, Charlie’s gift for codes, and Emily’s eye for detail coalesce into a clearer picture of what’s been happening at Idlewood, and the kids come together to solve the mystery of the manor.

I loved the quick-stroke character sketches that come out naturally through the narrative:

“Mr. Llewellyn struck Emily as the kind of man who liked children fine, but only after they’d celebrated their eighteenth birthday.” 

Or

“‘It will be fun,’ his mother said. ‘Anna’s probably already out there.’ Charlie doubted it. Hitting a ball around the lawn with a mallet didn’t seem wild enough for Anna.”

The kids sounded like kids I knew, and the suspicious characters like mix-breeds born of Encyclopedia Brown and Agatha Christie. The prose felt so confident that I googled “explorer Virginia Maines,” only to realize she’s a fictional rather than historic personage. And despite my best intentions, Allison had me ciphering out codes by the end of the novel, and not because the narrative requires it.

My favorite part was the underlying theme: Not all treasures are found deep inside a musty vault.

The Explorer’s Code, Allison K Hymas

A Junior Library Guild Selection

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