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Vanishing Acts (Madison Kincaid Series #1)

Vanishing Acts (Madison Kincaid Series #1)

3.6 3
by Phillip Margolin, Ami Margolin Rome

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First Day of 7th Grade—To Do:

  • Find locker
  • Soccer tryouts, 3 p.m.
  • Solve murder case

It's the middle of the night. Junior high starts tomorrow. Madison Kincaid jolts awake to the sound of a phone call from the jailhouse. It's a new case for her father, a renowned defense attorney: Someone's been accused of murdering


First Day of 7th Grade—To Do:

  • Find locker
  • Soccer tryouts, 3 p.m.
  • Solve murder case

It's the middle of the night. Junior high starts tomorrow. Madison Kincaid jolts awake to the sound of a phone call from the jailhouse. It's a new case for her father, a renowned defense attorney: Someone's been accused of murdering Madison's second-grade teacher. But no body has turned up. Bent on becoming a lawyer just like her dad, Madison's determined to help him crack the case.

At school the next day, Madison finds she's got not one but two mysteries on her plate. Her best friend, Ann, is nowhere to be found. With the help of Jake Stephenson, a fellow soccer player at Pettygrove Junior High, Madison hits the sidewalks of Portland, Oregon, ready to find out just what's hiding behind these two vanishing acts.

Editorial Reviews

ALA Booklist
“Best-selling adult author Margolin teams up with his daughter in this youth debut that pulls a few Nancy Drew parallels into a wholly contemporary story. A budding romance and vivid court scenes give readers more reasons to hope for future installments of Madison’s adventures.”
Children's Literature - Claudia Mills
Move over, Nancy Drew! Madison Kincaid is here! Like Nancy Drew, Madison Kincaid is a talented, motherless amateur sleuth, with a criminal defense attorney father who needs her assistance in solving a tough case (whether or not he realizes it), and who gives her plenty of unsupervised freedom to do so. In this debut middle-grade novel from a father-daughter writer team (Margolin himself is a criminal defense attorney turned New York Times bestselling mystery author), Madison stumbles upon not one, but two mysteries as she starts junior high. Hamilton Kincaid has a new client, Mark Shelby, who is being charged with the murder of his wife, who happens to have been Madison's second grade teacher—but no body has been found. And Madison's best friend has also disappeared without a trace: it is one thing when Ann fails to show up for the first day of school after a summer away in Europe, but Ann would never ever miss the all-important junior-high soccer tryouts. So Madison has two "vanishing acts" to solve, with the assistance of a cute new boy, who just might be on his way to becoming a cute new boyfriend. This enormously readable tale benefits from abundant, but never overwhelming, information about the inner workings of the criminal justice system, as well as from finely honed storytelling skills and spot-on insights into a preteen's thoughts and feelings. Completely satisfying. Reviewer: Claudia Mills, Ph.D.
VOYA - Devin Burritt
Madison Kincaid's first year of junior high starts off rather unusually. The night before the first day of school she is woken up when her father, a prominent defense attorney, receives a late-night call regarding a murder. When Madison overhears the surname involved in the trial, she finds it is her second grade teacher that has been allegedly murdered. Her first day gets tougher still when her best friend, Ann, is not in any of her classes and misses soccer tryouts for the first time since they were five. With some patience, and good sleuthing, Madison discovers what happened to her missing friend, and helps her father solve his murder case. Vanishing Acts is a clever, clear, and interesting read for younger middle-grade readers. The authors stumble slightly when trying to invoke their inner pre-teen voice, coming up mostly with stereotypes, but once Madison's emotional revelations are muddled through, the reader is left with beautiful, clear, rich settings filled with potential evidence begging to be analyzed, interwoven with truly riveting soccer matches. The short nature of this book keeps the clues from becoming too overwhelming. The ending is both unsuspected and unfantastic—making readers feel like this is something that could be solved by a seventh grader. This is a great book for lovers of mystery, or even a possible soccer fiction fan or two. Reviewer: Devin Burritt
School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—Madison Kincaid is the daughter of famous attorney. Her best friend went to Europe over the summer and hasn't contacted her since, and she isn't in school on the first day. When Madison tries to get in touch, she discovers a neglected house and yard and an untouched Facebook page. The seventh grader sees these details as sinister and worries that harm has come to her friend. A second mystery involves Madison's second-grade teacher, who has also gone missing and, it appears, has been murdered by her husband. When Madison's father is retained by the husband for his defense, Madison becomes involved in the case in the guise of "helping" her dad. This is a straightforward mystery with just the right number of twists and turns for younger and reluctant readers. Fans of "Nancy Drew" (Grosset & Dunlap), "The Red Blazer Girls," and "Sammy Keyes" (both Knopf) will enjoy the sleuthing.—Tina Martin, Arlington Heights Memorial Library, IL
Kirkus Reviews

Cardboard characters and an unbelievable plot make this contemporary mystery feel like a Nancy Drew knock-off minus the nostalgic charm.

Presumably veteran suspense author Margolin contributed the fast-moving action while his daughter Ami added the local color of the Portland, Ore., setting. Unfortunately, their efforts just don't jell into a cohesive tale. Distraught by the unexplained absence of her best friend at the start of seventh grade, soccer fanatic Madison Kincaid tackles two very different disappearances with the help of a new (boy) friend. The second investigation centers on a missing woman whose husband is being represented by Madison's defense-attorney dad. That only Madison would notice a particular observer in the courtroom (one who just happens to resemble the missing woman, who just happens to be Madison's second-grade teacher) seems unlikely in the extreme. That Madison would enter the home of an accused murderer is both improbable and frighteningly foolhardy. Superficially drawn characters do little to strengthen the formulaic plot's appeal. Madison, an excellent athlete and student, yearns for her distant, workaholic father's attention. His elderly receptionist Peggy is Madison's comforting confidante. Jake, the new friend, has no personality at all, while Ann, the other "missing" person, described as friendly and easygoing, seems to exist mainly as a foil for Madison and as a problem for her to solve.

Disappointingly dull.(Mystery. 9-12)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Madison Kincaid Series , #1
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Phillip Margolin has written nineteen novels, many of them New York Times bestsellers, including his latest novels Woman with a Gun, Worthy Brown’s Daughter, Sleight of Hand, and the Washington trilogy. Each displays a unique, compelling insider’s view of criminal behavior, which comes from his long background as a criminal defense attorney who has handled thirty murder cases. Winner of the Distinguished Northwest Writer Award, he lives in Portland, Oregon.

Phillip Margolin has written more than a dozen New York Times bestselling mysteries for adults, including Gone, But Not Forgotten; Executive Privilege; and Wild Justice. With Vanishing Acts, he is achieving two new firsts—his first book for young readers and his first book with his daughter, Ami Margolin Rome.

Ami Margolin Rome works in education philanthropy and is a former Peace Corps volunteer. Like Madison, Ami grew up in Portland, Oregon, with a criminal defense attorney for a father. She still lives in Portland today, near her father.

Brief Biography

Place of Birth:
New York, New York
B.A. in Government, American University, 1965; New York University School of Law, 1970

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