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This first novel's promising premise-Carey (a New York Times science reporter) uses mathematical equations and theorems as clues to a mystery-sinks under the weight of burdensome plotting and characters' hypothesizing. Spearheading the sleuthing are Di and Tom, seventh-grade misfits determined to find Mrs. Clarke, a kindly neighbor who helps them with their math homework, after she vanishes. The kids live in a bleak trailer park located beside an underground nuclear plant, made all the more unsavory by the nearby dump, Mt. Trashmore, "an entire rotting universe, reeking like sugary vomit." Deciphering notations left by Mrs. Clarke, the kids draw a map that leads them to underground tunnels, which they suspect hold the key to the woman's disappearance. The maps-simple diagrams that grow as information is uncovered-help elucidate their discoveries, yet digressions and a steady stream of data ("The Trashmore entrance was eight hundred yards above the x-axis. But the tunnel angled inward one hundred yards for every four hundred it moved downward") may dampen interest in what feels like an extended, if adventurous, story problem. Ages 10-up. (Apr.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.