by Kenneth Oppel
Intermediate, Middle School Simon 332 pp.
4/14 978-1-4424-7288-4 $15.99 g
e-book ed. 978-1-4424-7290-7 $10.99
Will Everett’s father has risen high in the railroad company. He’ll be driving the Boundless, the longest train ever, on her maiden voyage, and among its 987 cars is the heavily guarded funeral car of railroad baron Cornelius Van Horne. Naturally, it draws nefarious villain Brogan (disguised as a brakeman), who is bent on stealing the gold spike from Van Horne’s coffin, and he’s willing to murder anyone who stands in his way. Coincidentally, a cute tightrope walker, Maren, is also aboard as part of a circus. After a series of adventures (involving a sasquatch and a murder), Will finds himself stranded in the caboose, more than seven miles from his stateroom, where he must dodge Brogan and his henchmen with the help of Maren and her circus family. The ringmaster, Mr. Dorian, has his own plan: to steal a painting, one whose canvas has been soaked in the last dregs of the Fountain of Youth and now has the properties of the painting in The Picture of Dorian Gray. While the story starts slowly, it gradually picks up steam, and the urgent third-person present-tense narrative creates a palpable sense of suspense as these well-drawn characters travel through an alternate-universe Canadian wilderness toward a climactic confrontation. Once again, Oppel proves himself to be one of the premier writers of action and adventure for a middle-grade audience, and since the ending hints at a sequel, that audience can look forward to more from Will, Maren, and Brogan.