BRRRRRING! The doorbell rang loudly, followed immediately by a frantic thumping on the front door.
“Whoever’s that at this time of night?” wondered the professor as he walked to the door…The children followed him.
BRRRRRRRRRRRING!!The bell’s harsh ringing continued as did the increasingly desperate hammering, until the professor opened the door.
A tall, bedraggled figure blew into the room on a gust of wind and rain and staggered over to the nearest workbench. He leaned against it, clearly exhausted and soaked to the skin, desperately trying to remain standing…From beneath the wide brim of his sodden leather hat, the stranger’s bony, age-creviced face wore a haunted expression. From their deep, dark sockets, his pale gray eyes stared at the open front door.
“Am I being followed, Alexander?” he rasped weakly. “Look outside, quickly!”
Professor Ampersand peered this way and that through the sheets of rain before closing the door…”No one, as far as I can see,” he reported.
“Listen!” croaked the man. “Can’t…stay…awake…much…longer…Summon the others, Alexander….Professor Murdo has returned to Nordbergen.”
Eleven-year-old Sam Carnabie has just joined his parents’ old friend, Professor Ampersand, and the professor’s wards, Zara and Ben, for a week-long holiday in Edinburgh. Sam has been flabbergasted from the get-go at this unconventional household overflowing with eccentric inventions and enticing laboratory equipment. The alarming arrival of Eric Gauntraker, though, raises the quirk level up quite a few notches. What has put him in this ragged condition? Who is this Professor Murdo he’s gasping about? And what is so dramatic about Murdo’s return to Nordbergen?
Almost before Sam, Zara, and Ben finish learning the back-story from Professor Ampersand and the five colleagues he summons, they are suddenly, violently, caught up in the urgent case themselves. Flames and shattering glass! Laser guns and masked figures! When the dust settles, the professors have all been kidnapped. It’s up to the three children to decipher the strange messages left for them, find their way along top-secret routes to the Far North, and rescue the professors before Murdo can eliminate them and carry out his extraordinarily dastardly plan for the world.
This adventure with a sci-fi twist is perhaps more action-packed than anything else I’ve read. The rocket launches on page 2 and we don’t stop blasting forward, encountering extreme danger, unusual personalities, and a fleet of vehicles to make James Bond turn green with envy, until the very last page. For those who like breakneck speed, this is it.
Along the way our brilliant and brave trio learn of the dark intentions and chilling actions of Prof. Murdo, so be aware that past murders, gobs of attempted murder, diabolical genetic engineering, biological warfare, and an exceptionally rotten set of parents, all appear on the scene. Seems like a 12-and-up read to me. There are some thought-provoking ideas here as well, particularly regarding society’s infatuation with perfection, or pseudo-perfection, that would make for some great book club discussions, as well as a delightful character named Yuri who provides plenty of light-hearted moments.
Here in Minnesota, we’re having a bit of arctic weather ourselves these days. What better time to join a polar adventure?! It’s about 200 pages, very sparsely illustrated with Fardell’s small pencil drawings. Be prepared to buy readers their own Swiss Army Knife when they finish the book!