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.
The Unknowns: A Math Mysteryby Benedict Carey
In a trailer park called Adjacent, next to the Folsom Energy Plant, people have started to vanish, and no one seems to care. At first Lady Di and her best friend, Tom Jones, barely notice the disappearancesuntil their beloved math tutor, Mrs. Clarke, is abducted, too. Mrs. Clarke has left them clues in the form of math equations that lead them all over the
In a trailer park called Adjacent, next to the Folsom Energy Plant, people have started to vanish, and no one seems to care. At first Lady Di and her best friend, Tom Jones, barely notice the disappearancesuntil their beloved math tutor, Mrs. Clarke, is abducted, too. Mrs. Clarke has left them clues in the form of math equations that lead them all over the trailer park, through hidden tunnels under “Mount Trashmore,” and into the Folsom Energy Plant itself, where Lady Di and Tom Jones and a gang of other misfits uncover the sordid truth about what’s really happening there.
F&P level: Y
Meet the Author
Benedict Carey, a former Los Angeles Times writer and current New York Times science section writer, was a math and physics major in college, so he knows his geometry. Hoping to ignite a passion for math in his own kids, Benedict decided to craft a smart and action-packed story for middle-grade readers that uses math lessons to solve the mysterious disappearance of their math tutor. He and his wife and children live in a suburb of New York City.
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