A skilled thief on a mysterious mission, Carmen Sandiego is endlessly pursued by ACME and Interpol. But the woman in the red fedora is always one step ahead! In this novelization, based on the Netflix animated series, Carmen shares her own backstory for the first time ever. Now, it's time to find out.... Who in the world is Carmen Sandiego.
Read an Excerpt
The sun was about to set in the historic city of Poitiers, France. The medieval cathedrals were aglow with the golden light of dusk as residents made their way home across cobblestone streets.
Yet there was one Poitiers resident who had no intention of going home that night.
In a sleek black car parked in the city square, Inspector Chase Devineaux clenched the steering wheel, his knuckles turning a pale shade of white.
For the past two days, ever since the infamous globetrotting thief known as Carmen Sandiego was rumored to have arrived in his city, the French Interpol officer had dedicated every waking moment to organizing her capture. Everyone was after Carmen Sandiego, and she had managed to dodge agencies and officers all over the world. Chase had not slept; he had barely eaten—for he knew that this could be his only chance to make an arrest. Finally, the super thief was in his jurisdiction, and he would not let this opportunity go to waste. I will catch her if it is the last thing I do, Chase thought.
He turned to Julia Argent, sitting in the passenger seat next to him. She was studiously scrolling through data on her tablet. Julia was a newly recruited Interpol officer with sleek black hair that she kept very short and round glasses that magnified her already large brown eyes. She was half Chinese and half British, and she had a knack for things like languages and history. But what she was really good at was solving problems using logic. Chase had already come to realize in just a few days of working with her that what Julia lacked in experience, she made up for in intellect. And he would never admit it, but that intimidated him.
Julia adjusted her glasses and looked closely at her screen as she scrolled through a series of blurred images. The images all showed the same woman in different exotic locations across the globe. In one, she was leaving a bank in Hong Kong. In another, she was boarding a train in Norway. In every photograph, the mysterious woman wore the same vibrant red trench coat and matching fedora tilted at a perfect angle on her head. But her face was always covered, as though she knew the exact moment to look away and keep her features hidden.
“In the last few weeks alone, this Carmen Sandiego has stolen millions from a Swiss bank, a high-end art gallery in Cairo, and a Shanghai amusement park!” Chase exclaimed as he tightened his grip on the steering wheel even more.
Julia nodded, her eyes still on the data in front of her. “We’ve yet to find any pattern. Don’t you find it strange, sir, that she seems to announce her crimes by making public appearances beforehand? Like the café sighting here in Poitiers earlier today?”
Chase grumbled under his breath. Those same questions had been bothering him for weeks now. Why would a thief draw attention to herself by leaving clues and wearing such bold colors? Was stealing just a game to Carmen Sandiego? Catch me if you can!
He brushed away the thought with a wave of his hand. “It does not matter,” he said firmly. “She is in my city now, Ms. Argent, and I will be the one to capture her!”
Julia’s attention was suddenly drawn toward the sight of a red blur as a figure darted across the street in front of their car. Julia’s breath caught in her chest. Could it be?
Chase Devineaux continued, not seeing the red figure directly ahead of him. “You are new to the force, so you are to sit back, watch me work, and learn how to catch a thief!”
Julia bolted upright and hurriedly pointed in the direction of the woman. “Sir! She’s right there!”
Annoyed at the interruption, Chase slowly turned to follow the direction of Julia’s finger with a frustrated sigh. New officers are too excitable these days, he thought.
Then Chase caught sight of a red fedora across the street. His eyes went wide. It was the woman in red!
“La Femme Rouge!” Chase shouted. Carmen Sandiego fired a grapnel overhead and was gracefully pulled skyward toward the rooftops. She had been right in front of him—and now she was getting away!
On an orange-tiled rooftop, Carmen Sandiego looked across the Poitiers skyline and stopped to take in the incredible view. In the distance, she could see the towers of Cathédrale Saint-Pierre lit up by the sun’s dimming rays. Her long brown hair fell in waves from under her red fedora. She tilted the hat up and away from her eyes and sighed deeply at the sight.
She never tired of the magnificent sights to be found in new and exciting places around the world. Even now, when she knew time was of the essence, she couldn’t help but take a moment to appreciate how beautiful France was.
“You might want to save the sightseeing for after the job,” came the voice of a young teenage boy in her ear.
Carmen touched the earring that doubled as a communication device and smiled wryly. “Glad you could join me, Player.”
“I wouldn’t miss a night out with you for the world, Red,” he responded.
Player was Carmen Sandiego’s confidante and, one could say, her very best friend, even though they had never actually met face-to-face. Player also had incredible computer-hacking abilities that far surpassed his years. Carmen realized that she had come to rely on the computer whiz while she was out in the field.
“The next stop on your sightseeing tour of Poitiers should be . . . fifty yards dead ahead,” Player instructed.
Carmen darted forward across the rooftops, her boots clicking like castanets across the tiles. The steep angles of the roofs posed no difficulty for her as she jumped from one building to another.
Soon enough, she reached her destination. It was a French chateau penthouse. Hanging vines grew along the sides of the building, reaching down to a balcony where Carmen spied a set of large glass doors. But I’m not going in through the door, she thought with a slight smile.
With one smooth motion, Carmen made a final leap to the penthouse roof and scanned the area until she found what she was looking for—a skylight window. Kneeling down, Carmen examined a security-alarm box connected to the side of it. If she tried to open the window without disabling the alarm first, every police officer in France would be after her in an instant.
Without missing a beat, Carmen took out a tube of lipstick from her coat pocket and twisted the bottom. But Carmen was not one for doing her makeup on the job. She was much more interested in the high-tech port that extended from the lipstick tube. She slid it into the side of the alarm box with a click. “Cosmetic and electric,” Carmen said with a smile. “Do you think you can open this for me, Player?”
“Matching frequencies . . . decrypting the security codes . . .” he mumbled. Carmen could hear Player typing rapidly from where he lived in Ontario, Canada. While she had never seen his computer-hacking station, she had no doubt he had multiple monitors and all the latest in high-tech computer technology. “And you’re in! Alarm system disabled.”
The light on the security box changed from red to green, and Carmen slid the skylight window open. Too easy, she thought. It was always more fun when she was able to put her skills to the test.
“It could be a trap,” Player cautioned.
“Let’s find out.”
Carmen pulled her grappling hook out of her trench coat. Gadgets of all shapes and sizes lined the inside of her fashionable red coat, always within arm’s reach.
She secured the grappling hook to the edge of the skylight and began lowering herself into the chateau.
Carmen soon found herself in a thief’s paradise. She was surrounded by ornate suits of armor, priceless tapestries, and delicate porcelain vases lining the mantels. She reached the floor, and as she stepped down—
Suddenly, a hidden panel opened in the wall, and out fired a fleet of crossbow bolts. The sharp metal arrows were coming straight at her, deadly and fast. There was no time to lose! Carmen grabbed a shield from a nearby suit of armor and raised it to protect herself. With dull thuds, the arrows buried themselves in the shield.
Carmen winced at the sight of the medieval shield now peppered with arrows. With a twinge of guilt for damaging a priceless antique, she set the shield aside and made her way through the chateau.
Perhaps other people would have been on edge after being shot at with arrows, but for Carmen Sandiego, it was just another Tuesday.
Carmen looked around the vast living area, and her eyes settled on a bookshelf that reached all the way from the floor to the ceiling. “Isn’t this where the vault should be?” Carmen asked as she began running her hand along the shelves.
“According to the blueprints, yes,” Player agreed. Carmen rapped her hand on the shelf, and a hollow echo sounded back. She quickly scanned the wall, knowing that the door had to be there somewhere. Carmen reached up and pulled down on a bronze candlestick that was attached to the wall. Bingo! She grinned as the bookshelf swung open to reveal a huge metal door.
The vault door was securely locked with an electronic keypad, so Carmen pulled another gadget from the inside of her coat. This one was her own small yet sleek keypad. With the press of a button, numbers began to flash on the keypad’s screen, one after another, as it searched for the combination that would open the vault. After a moment, a sequence of numbers locked in place on the screen. Open sesame, thought Carmen as the vault door swung open. She stepped inside.
The vault was a massive, cave-like room. Glittering jewels and ancient antiques lined the walls. They must have been worth a small fortune. The real prize, however, rested in the middle of the room on a glass pedestal. Carmen walked toward it, her excitement rising.
Directly in front of her was a blue gemstone the size of a football. It was known to collectors and archaeologists as the famed Eye of Vishnu. It was an incredible sight to behold, and it was one that Carmen had seen once before, a long time ago.
But Carmen had no time to reminisce about the past. She quickly approached the Eye of Vishnu, reaching out to take it from the pedestal. Just then, something in the corner of the room caught her eye.
She gasped—It couldn’t be!
“Red? What’s wrong?”
Carmen swallowed, trying to process what she was seeing. “I’m staring at something I thought I’d never, ever set eyes on again,” she told Player, her voice raw with emotion.
“Is what you’re staring at more valuable than the Eye of Vishnu? You know, the gemstone that’s as big as my head?” Player asked, confused about what could have possibly distracted Carmen from her mission.
Before Carmen could answer Player’s question, there was a loud pounding at the penthouse door.
“Interpol! Open this door!”
Carmen whirled around. A smile played at the corner of her mouth. Now, this was just the sort of challenge she liked.
Inspector Chase Devineaux knew his window of opportunity for catching Carmen Sandiego was small. “Open up! This is Interpol!” he yelled again, and slammed his whole body into the door, breaking it open.
He ran into the vault just in time to see the red-coated Carmen Sandiego swinging a black satchel over her shoulder, a round object stored inside it. Chase’s cheeks reddened with anger. “Stop! Thief!”
He lunged at her, but Carmen had pulled a medieval tapestry down from the wall and was now waving it like a Spanish matador facing a bull. She skillfully tossed the fabric wall hanging around him, and Chase found himself in complete darkness. He struggled to pull it off. Finally, Chase threw the tapestry aside, sputtering.
“Inspector Chase Devineaux, huh?” Carmen Sandiego asked with a wry smile.
Chase stared at her, dumbfounded. How does she know my name? he wondered. He reached for his pockets and gasped as he found them empty.
Carmen Sandiego held up his badge and tossed it back to him. His jaw dropped. How did she get that?
“Let’s see what’s in a name, Chase,” she said. Before the inspector could formulate a response, Carmen fired her grappling hook overhead and disappeared through the skylight window.
Chase glanced around. Beyond a set of large windows, he could see a fire escape—it had to lead to the roof! He pushed open the window, raced up the fire escape, and jumped onto the roof. He could feel every second tick by as he saw Carmen Sandiego sprinting nimbly across the French rooftops. “I ordered you to stop!” Chase called after her, struggling to keep up.
To his surprise, Carmen did stop. She turned around. “You didn’t say for how long,” Carmen teased, and in an instant, she was off running again.
Across the rooftops they ran until Chase saw that Carmen was headed straight for the edge of a tall building, with nowhere left to run or jump. I’ve got her now, he thought triumphantly, and began to imagine the glory he would receive as the inspector who finally captured the world’s most elusive thief.
Carmen reached the roof’s edge and turned to face Chase Devineaux. He smiled. This was it. He had her right where he wanted her, and she had nowhere to go. But to his surprise, she simply waved.
“Au revoir,” Carmen said, and she stepped off the roof.
Chase stared in disbelief as red hang-glider wings extended from a backpack strapped to Carmen’s back. She soared up and over the streets of Poitiers with grace and ease. “Impossible!” he exclaimed.
As he watched her make her escape, he realized a moment too late that he was standing too close to the roof’s edge. Suddenly, his foot began to slip. Chase lost his balance and catapulted down toward the road below.
He fell right onto the front of his own car that was still parked below. With a groan, he looked through the cracked windshield to see a shocked Julia Argent gazing up at him from the passenger seat.
“Inspector! Are you all right?”
“Never mind that!” Chase pointed skyward to where Carmen Sandiego was gliding, a bright flash of red against the twilight sky. “I must follow her! Now!”
Chase threw open the door to the car, ignoring the cracked windshield. Julia leaned forward, her eyes trained on the woman in the sky. “She must land sometime . . .” Julia thought aloud.
Realization suddenly dawned on Chase. “She is heading for the train station! Ms. Argent, go to the crime scene and figure out what was stolen. I will catch her before she makes her escape!” Julia jumped out of the car, and Chase slammed his foot on the gas pedal.
The car screeched through the narrow streets of Poitiers. As he neared the train station, Chase looked up to see Carmen Sandiego soar down for an elegant landing, disappearing behind the station building. Despite himself, Chase couldn’t help but admire—just for a moment—the grace with which this mysterious woman seemed to operate.
His foot still firmly on the gas pedal, Chase sped the car up alongside the station just in time to see the train pulling away. He turned his car toward the train tracks, and with a twist of the steering wheel, the car lurched up next to the tracks. “I am not letting her get away!”
Carmen made her way through the train car until she located her compartment, then stepped in and shut the door behind her.
In an impossibly fast move, Carmen had changed from her red trench coat and fedora into jeans and a red hoodie. It was a skill she had learned a long time ago in an unusual class at an even more unusual school, and it served her well in times like these. Getaways were most successful when you blended in with the crowd, she thought. The plush velvet seats in the train car and the passing French scenery out the window were welcome sights. “First class? Nice!” Carmen said with a smile as she sat down.
“You’ve earned it,” Player responded. Carmen couldn’t argue with that. It had certainly been a successful job.
She picked up her black satchel. It was heavy with the weight of the stolen object.
From where he was on the other side of the world, Player was beginning to wonder whether Carmen had stolen the Eye of Vishnu, or whether the object resting in her satchel was actually the thing that had caught her eye in the chateau. He said nothing, knowing that he would find out the answer soon enough. Carmen Sandiego always had her reasons for doing things the way she did.
The door to Carmen’s compartment opened, and before she could tell the intruder that he was in the wrong car, she found herself face-to-face with someone she had not seen in a very long time.
“Hello, Gray,” Carmen said as the young man approached.
He was gangly yet handsome, with messy brown hair and broad shoulders. He spoke with a thick Australian accent. “Well, well . . .” Gray said as he closed the compartment door behind him. “Isn’t this a blast from the past?”
“Blast from the past? Is someone th—”
Before Player could finish his question, Gray took out a metal rod that looked unmistakably high-tech and pressed a button on the side of it. A jolt of electricity coursed through the compartment. Carmen raised an eyebrow at Gray.
“That was a directional EMP,” Gray said. “I just wiped out all your electronics. Your phone and any other communication devices are offline now, so you can forget about calling a friend for help.” Carmen hoped that Player wouldn’t worry.
“I know what an electromagnetic pulse does, Gray. I took Bellum’s class too, remember?”
Carmen sat back down on the train seat. She casually gestured toward the black satchel next to her as she said, “You didn’t think I would steal it without checking for a tracking device first, did you?” Gray stared at her, unable to hide his surprise. Carmen suppressed a smile at this. “That’s right. I wanted you to find me. I thought it was time we tied up some loose ends.”
Gray angrily sat down opposite her. “You were the only loose end . . . until five seconds ago, when I captured the great Carmen Sandiego.” He leaned forward. “Or should I call you . . . Black Sheep?”
Black Sheep. That was a name she hadn’t heard in a while.
“Do you remember when we met?” Carmen asked.
“It would be a hard thing to forget,” Gray responded. “It was the day we became students at VILE Academy. We’re not on the island anymore. We don’t have to abide by VILE’s rules, so we don’t have to keep our pasts a secret anymore.” Gray leaned forward. “What’s your story?”
“I guess there’s no harm in talking about it now,” Carmen said after a moment. “Why not? We have a long train ride ahead of us.”
She had never told her story before. Perhaps it was time to come to terms with her past . . . what she knew of it.