Monday, December 29, 2008

Mystery Book Review: The Big Splash by Jack D. Ferraiolo

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of The Big Splash by Jack D. Ferraiolo. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

The Big Splash by Jack D. Ferraiolo

A Matt Stevens Mystery

Amulet Books (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-8109-7067-8 (0810970678)
ISBN-13: 978-0-8109-7067-0 (9780810970678)
Publication Date: September 2008
List Price: $15.95

Review: Jack D. Ferraiolo introduces middle school private investigator Matt Stevens in The Big Splash, a hard-boiled noir mystery for young adults that pays homage to the masters of the genre.

The case seemed deceptively simple, but don't they all: Matt is hired by Vincent "Vinnie Biggs" Biggio to retrieve a pendant given by him to his former girlfriend, Nicole "Nicki Fingers" Finnegan. Not only was Nicki a girlfriend, she was also Vinnie's primary enforcer, a sharpshooter with a water gun. Nicki's gone straight to set an example for her younger sister, but just as Matt completes his assignment, Nicki is attacked with a stream of water by an unknown assailant. Matt's now in the middle trying to figure out what's going on. Is someone trying to muscle in on Vinnie's organization? Or is one of Nicki's many victims just getting payback? Or is it something more personal? The possibilities, and suspects, seem endless.

Narrated by Matt, the opening paragraph of The Big Splash definitively sets the tone for the entire book. One can immediately imagine Stacy Keach as Mike Hammer reciting these lines:

"He approached me as I made my way into the caf for lunch. He was small and wiry, with a face that would've been more at home on a rodent. His jaw moved slowly and with great purpose as it worked over a piece of fruit gum, the kind that gave off a sickeningly sweet smell but lost its flavor after three chews. His name was Joey Renoni, a.k.a. the Hyena, and I knew who he worked for."

The Big Splash is clearly written for a younger audience though readers not familiar with the noir classics may not fully appreciate the narrative style. It's likely older children and even adults will enjoy the book. The violence is minimal and references to more mature subjects are replaced by, though hardly masking, age-appropriate themes. From a plot perspective, in many ways Matt and the other characters are adults merely inhabiting children's bodies. Typical of the genre, the plot is filled with unexpected twists and turns, though it seems overly drawn out at times. Still, it's hard not to like Matt and get involved in his investigation as he discovers the true culprit behind the pusillanimous deed.

Though not specifically stated at any point that a sequel is planned, The Big Splash seems an ideal introduction to a noir series featuring Matt Stevens written for a middle school-age audience.

Special thanks to Amulet Books, an imprint of Harry N. Abrams, for providing a copy of The Big Splash for this review.

Review Copyright © 2008 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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Synopsis (from the publisher): “The Frank” is in the clutches of a crime syndicate run by seventh-grader Vinny “Mr. Biggs” Biggio, who deals in forged hall passes and black-market candy. Double-cross him and your number is punched by one of his deadly water-gun-toting assassins. One hit in the pants and you are in “the Outs” forever.

Matt Stevens is a proud loner with his own code of justice. He’s avoided being pulled into Vinny’s organization until now: Mr. Biggs has offered him a job he can’t resist, one that leads to the surprising downfall of Vinny’s top assassin, the beautiful and deadly Nikki “Fingers” Finnegan, at the hands of an unknown assailant. Matt thinks he was used, and he becomes determined to find the trigger-guy or -girl, even if it means bringing down one of his oldest friends.

For more visit Mysterious Reviews, a partner with the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books which is committed to providing readers and collectors of with the best and most current information about their favorite authors, titles, and series.

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