Vanishing Act: Mystery at the U. S. Open

Vanishing Act: Mystery at the U. S. Open

4.5 41
by John Feinstein

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New York Times bestselling author John Feinstein goes behind closed doors at the US Open . . .
When teen sportswriters Stevie Thomas and Susan Carol Anderson score press passes to the U.S. Open they expect drama. They expect blistering serves, smashed returns and fierce competition. What they don't expect is kidnapping.

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New York Times bestselling author John Feinstein goes behind closed doors at the US Open . . .
When teen sportswriters Stevie Thomas and Susan Carol Anderson score press passes to the U.S. Open they expect drama. They expect blistering serves, smashed returns and fierce competition. What they don't expect is kidnapping.

Russian tennis phenom Nadia Symanova was supposed to win it all, but she never even made it onto the court. Now the whole stadium is in an uproar trying to find her. Can Stevie and Susan Carol get to Nadia before it's too late?

"Feinstein expertly combines tennis action, life in the Big Apple, media coverage, and a realistic plot to explore the fierce competition of tennis." —Chicago Sun-Times

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The teen reporters who uncovered scandal at college basketball's Final Four in Last Shot wangle new assignments to cover the U.S. Open tennis championships. Stevie Thomas and Susan Carol Anderson find themselves pulled into investigating the disappearance of Nadia Symanova, a Russian with a powerful forehand and supermodel looks. Despite the onslaught of media that converges on Queens, it takes the two 13-year-olds to untangle the mystery, and uncover the corruption fueling it. Sportswriter and adult novelist Feinstein (A Season on the Brink) delivers a name-dropping, insider account of professional tennis politics-TV announcer Bud Collins is a character-and does not pull his punches. "Agents are responsible for most of the ills of tennis, and the ills of tennis are endless," his Collins says-and those ills apparently include tennis prodigies who forfeit their education to pursue million-dollar shoe contracts, and players who shriek when striking the ball. Sports agents come under the harshest scrutiny. There may be a lot of commentary here, but the tension continually escalates, and ends with a hint of romance between the protagonists that suggests at least one more adventure for Susan Carol and Stevie. Ages 10-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
VOYA - Nancy Zachary
Rogue reporters Stevie Thomas and Susan Carol Anderson, whom readers admired in Last Shot (Knopf, 2005/VOYA February 2005), are back in a marvelous new adventure that exposes the world of tennis. Sports fans first, their writing skills have developed in sports journalism, and here Stevie and Susan Carol are given another chance to hone their talents, acquiring press credentials and moving to New York City for the annual U.S. Open. Conveniently Susan Carol's Uncle Brendan has become a sports agent and invites both teens to stay with him on Riverside Drive. Their mentor, Bobby Kelleher, offers this awesome opportunity and affords the proper guidance and protection for these young super sleuths to meet and mix with the players and the media. Actual players, game officials, and newscasters make cameo appearances, and tennis fans will enjoy reading about Roddick, Nadel, and the Williams sisters as well as Bud Collins, Mary Carillo, and Mike Lupica. Authentic tennis jargon, sports agencies, and the competitive nature of the pro-circuit are accurately depicted around the kidnapping of a fictitious teen Russian player, Nadia Symanova. The draw is set, and the schedule of play cannot be altered. Enter Evelyn Rubin, another up-and-coming teen player who makes an outstanding showing and befriends our reporters. Conniving adults with mercenary goals are the catalyst for this whodunit, as the plot takes some unbelievable twists before justice wins out. Recommend this title to all teens because these detectives demonstrate brave friendships and a sparkle of romance, too.
Children's Literature
John Feinstein tells a very good story. Although it is not always probable or even laudable when thirteen-year olds take cabs and subways and prowl around New York City alone (and no, it is not their hometown), Feinstein successfully weaves international intrigue, danger, and adolescent crushes into his first young adult novel. As a well-respected journalist and author of numerous nonfiction sports books, Feinstein brings a high degree of credibility to the background information he includes about both professional tennis and sports journalism. The two young protagonists learn to maneuver their way quite successfully through the often ugly world of agents, commercial sponsorships, and tournaments. The story is slow to take off and often includes enough extraneous detail to read like a play-by-play account, but this title will still be a good choice for readers who thrive on tennis, novels of suspense, or dreams of being a great sportswriter. 2006, Alfred A. Knopf, Ages 10 to 16.
—Karen Leggett
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-In Last Shot (Knopf, 2005), 13-year-old amateur sportswriters Susan Carol Anderson and Stevie Thomas uncovered a plot to throw a championship game in the NCAA Final Four in New Orleans. Now they meet once again, this time in New York City to help cover the U.S. Open Tennis tournaments. Susan Carol's uncle, a new agent for an up-and-coming female tennis player, lives in Manhattan and offers them a place to stay. When the Russian tennis sweetheart Nadia Symanova is kidnapped right before her first match, Stevie begins to suspect that Susan Carol's uncle is involved. The mystery maintains a genuine level of suspense throughout the story. Many superfluous figures are introduced, and it can be difficult to keep them straight, especially when they are referred to by first name in one chapter and last name in another. Although the main characters are predictable, the use of kid-friendly terminology, contemporary personalities in the tennis world, and factual information about the game may appeal to savvy tennis fans.-D. Maria LaRocco, Cuyahoga Public Library, Strongsville, OH Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Stevie Thomas and Susan Carol Anderson are back. Having foiled a plot at the NCAA Final Four tournament in Last Shot (2005), they are in New York City for the U.S. Open tennis tournament, and once again there's trouble. Rising superstar Nadia Symanova disappears, setting off a media frenzy and embroiling the young reporters in a conspiracy involving two kidnappings, a mugging, the FBI, ruined reputations and a bit of romance. The story puts readers behind the scenes, rubbing shoulders with celebrity tennis greats and popular television journalists. Veteran sportswriter Feinstein serves a winner here, deftly blending sports, mystery and social commentary. The prose is taut, the dialogue snappy, and layers of intrigue are laid down like expert drop shots. The mystery will hold readers to the very end, culminating in an exciting match and surprise arrests. A natural pairing with Mike Lupica's Travel Team (2004) and Heat (April 2006). (Fiction. 10+)
From the Publisher
“Feinstein expertly combines tennis action, life in the Big Apple, media coverage, and a realistic plot to explore the fierce competition of tennis.” –Chicago Sun-Times

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Steve Thomas & Susan Carol Anderson Series
Sold by:
Random House
Sales rank:
760L (what's this?)
File size:
599 KB
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

“Okay,” Kelleher said, pausing just outside the press room entrance. “We need a strategy of some kind. I think we should split up . . .”

He broke off in mid-sentence as a middle-aged man with graying hair ducked out of the media center and made a quick turn away from them.

“Arlen!” Kelleher said, heading toward the man. “Arlen, hang on a second!”

The man half turned, still walking and waved a hand as if to say, go away. “Not now Bobby. I can’t talk. We’re organizing a press conference. We’ll let you know what’s going on in a while.”

He had slowed down enough that Kelleher was able to catch up to him. Stevie and Susan Carol followed at what they hoped was a discreet distance.

“In a while?” Kelleher said. “Come on, Arlen give me a break. Don’t give me that press conference crap. What happened out there. Where the hell is Symanova?”

The man stopped and turned to face Kelleher. Stevie noticed he was quite pale. He looked around as if to be sure no one could hear him and dropped his voice to a whisper so that Stevie, standing right behind Kelleher could barely hear.

“We don’t know,” he said.

For a second, Kelleher just stared at him. “What do you mean you don’t know? How can you not know? Wasn’t she on her way over to Armstrong with Walsh?”

Yes she was!” Arlen said, clearly exasperated, still looking around as if he was afraid someone would hear him. “They were on their way over there and she disappeared.”

“Disappeared!” Kelleher shouted.

“Bobby please,” Arlen hissed, signaling Kelleher to keep his voice down. “Yes, she disappeared. You know what it’s like out there between the stadiums. We had four security guys surrounding the two players. A group of people cut across their path headed for the food court. The security guys got jostled. Walsh and her two guys kept going, no one bumped them. By the time Symanovs guys got untangled she was gone.”

“But how is that possible. . .”

Arlen held up his hand. “For crying out loud Bobby, if we knew, she wouldn’t be missing would she? We’ve sealed all the exits to the park but that’s the problem–we’re right on the edge of a park. There are plenty of ways to get off the property without walking through an exit.” He looked around again. “I’ve got to go. There’s a meeting in about two minutes. I’ve told you everything I know up to this minute.”

“Okay, okay,” Kelleher said. “Can I quote you on this stuff?”

Arlen smiled wanly. “At this point, that’s the least of my worries.” He turned and walked down the hallway.

“Who was that?” Stevie asked.

“Arlen Kanterian,” Kelleher said. “He’s the CEO of professional tennis for the U.S. Tennis Association. It means he’s in charge of the tournament. He talks to me because his brother Harry’s a friend of mine.” He took a deep breath.

“Okay, this story is officially huge. Beyond huge. We’ve got a big leg up on people right now, let’s do something with it.”

“Like what?” Susan Carol said, for once looking as baffled as Stevie felt.

Kelleher took a deep breath. “Good question,” he said. Then he snapped his fingers. “Listen Susan Carol, you can get into the junior girls locker room.”

“What’s that?” she asked.

“I’ll give you the short version,” Kelleher said. “There are so many girls under eighteen in the event that they have a separate locker room that the media isn’t allowed into because the parents freak out about men seeing their daughters half-dressed. Since female reporters are allowed in the men’s locker room, male reporters are allowed into the women’s. But not where there are women under the age of eighteen. It’s been a huge controversy for years because all the players freak out about us being in the locker room. The point is the junior locker room door’s not even marked and they usually don’t even have a guard on it because they don’t want to call attention to it. You take your press credential off, you can probably walk in there like you’re a player.”

“How do you know where it is?” Susan Carol said.

“Carillo showed me. Come on, let’s start walking. I’ll show you where it is. Meantime, Stevie, I want you in the players lounge. Once you’re past the guard, take your credential off and just walk around and listen. I’m going to the men’s locker room. We’ll meet back here in thirty minutes.”

“What exactly are we listening for?” Stevie asked as they started to walk down the long hallway.
Kelleher shook his head. “I have no idea Stevie,” he said. “But people will be talking and someone must know something.”

“And what do I do if I manage to get in?” Susan Carol said. “Won’t the other players know I’m a fraud right away?

“Sit in front of an empty locker as if it’s yours and listen. There are so many different events going on here at once that no one knows everybody. You never know when you’re going to be in the right place at the right time. If we’re in three different places, our chances are three times as good of hearing something helpful.”

“But what do we think is going on here?” Stevie asked.

“That,” Kelleher said, “is the multi-million dollar question.”

From the Hardcover edition.

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