Book Review: Quest for the King’s Crown

Quest for the King’s Crown
Last Chance Detectives #6/7*
by Robert Vernon

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Children’s Christian mystery, adventure

Mysterious strangers and very old skeletons launch the Last Chance Detectives into another case, this time searching for treasure!

This series takes place in the mid-90s, though I sometimes think the author takes some liberty with the technology available at the time. Still, this story is fun, with some twists and turns that keep it interesting. There are some things that happen that I feel are unlikely enough to lower the rating by a star, because while kids may not pick up on those issues, that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a story with a tighter plot. I also think the kids themselves and their personalities take a bit of a backseat to the grander plot, but overall, it’s a good addition to the series. I was leery of new books being written after so long, but now I’m glad to be able to read more about these young detectives from the 90s and really hope the author is planning more, especially considering the tiny crumb we’re given about Mike’s missing dad in this book.

Thank you to Netgalley and Tyndale House Publishers/Focus on the Family for providing me a copy of this book to review.

Find out more about Quest for the King’s Crown
Publication date: November 8, 2022
*There were 3 books in the series originally, back in the 90s, and then a prequel came out in 2004. For some reason, when the first more recent book was published in 2021, the first one was labeled as book #5 in the series, I guess making the prequel the new #1 and pushing the rest a book later. But the early ones are still labeled as 1-3 in many places, so now it’s just kind of a mess…

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Book Review: Revenge of the Phantom Hot Rod

Revenge of the Phantom Hot Rod
Last Chance Detectives #5/6*
by Robert Vernon

My rating: 4.5 / 5
Genre: Children’s Christian mystery, adventure

When a car from the past with a ghostly driver begins to terrorize motorists near Ambrosia, the Last Chance Detectives are on the case.

Though this series started in the 90s, this book was written and published this year (2022). It still takes place in the mid-90s, which does tend to limit what the reader might suspect is happening, especially given the genre of the series. However, the target audience (8-12 year olds) would probably not try to solve the mystery while reading and instead simply enjoy the excitement and suspense. And even though I found myself unable to stop speculating on the technique used by the “bad guy,” I did still really enjoy the story. The descriptions of the driver were sufficiently mysterious and even a little creepy, and the way the Last Chance Detectives worked to solve it was smart and interesting.

I like that this series doesn’t generally follow the modern trend for kids books to have the kids breaking rules, ignoring adults, and generally being disrespectful as they protagonize their way through a story (no, that’s not a word, but I like it). Mike, Ben, Spence, and Winnie are just as curious and determined as I remember them being in the LCD movie I grew up watching (The Mystery Lights of Navajo Mesa). And even better, Winnie gets a little more depth to her character in this book (was she shown to be artistic before? If so, I don’t recall). The feud between her and Ben was amusing, and even realistic in the way it began to be less amusing to their friends as it went on and got in the way of the investigation. The culmination of that was a serious heart-stopper for me, and I’m still not sure how I feel about the way the author went with that in the end. Maybe it wouldn’t have affected me so much if the overall series wasn’t so ingrained in my childhood—though I never read any of the books back then and only watched the one movie, I watched it so many times that when I read the respective book for the first time recently, I read many of the lines in the same inflection as the actors said them in the movie.

Overall, this was a great addition to the series. I was leery of new books being written after so long, but now I’m glad to be able to read more about these young detectives from the 90s and am looking forward to the next one.

Find out more about Revenge of the Phantom Hot Rod
*There were 3 books in the series originally, back in the 90s, and then a prequel came out in 2004. For some reason, when the first more recent book was published in 2021, the first one was labeled as book #5 in the series, I guess making the prequel the new #1 and pushing the rest a book later. But the early ones are still labeled as 1-3 in many places, so now it’s just kind of a mess…

See what I’m reading next.

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Book Review: Terror from Outer Space

Terror from Outer Space
Last Chance Detectives #4
by Robert Vernon

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Children’s Christian mystery, adventure

Have aliens landed in the desert? Though the report may be unbelievable, Sheriff Smitty can’t deny that something strange is going on, especially when he has his own frightening encounter. It’s up to Mike, Winnie, Spence, and Ben, the Last Chance Detectives, to investigate, but they won’t like what they find.

Overall, this was another solid addition to the series, with some exciting scenes and a hard, but important, lesson of faith learned by Mike. The mystery was predictable to me, but younger readers will be much less likely to guess what’s going on. If I’d been in Winnie’s shoes in this story, I probably would have passed out, or at least been found curled up on the floor crying.

Speaking of Winnie, it’s much more obvious in this book that she’s not as well developed as her three friends. The other three have a line or two explaining what they bring to the group at the beginning of the story. Mike’s confidence makes him a natural leader, Spence is clever and inventive, even Ben is said to provide fun and out-of-the-box thinking. There’s literally nothing, not even a minor attempt, made to show Winnie’s contribution to the group, and thinking about the 3 books in this series I’ve read in the last few days, I couldn’t tell you what it was either. She’s just…there.

This is the first new story to come out in a series from the 90s, and while I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the 2 originals that I recently read, I do still recommend this book for those around age 10-14.

Thank you to Netgalley and Tyndale House Publishers/Focus on the Family for providing me a copy of this book to review.

Find out more about Terror from Outer Space
Publication date: October 5, 2021

See what I’m reading next.

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!