When we first meet her, Sara Maria “Brooklyn” Martinez, the heroine of James Ponti’s exciting new novel, City Spies, is about to be convicted for hacking into the database of the New York City juvenile justice system. Just when things begin to seem hopeless, the 12-year-old Puerto Rican-born orphan is rescued from imprisonment by a smooth-talking British intelligence agent named Mother. Before Brooklyn fully realizes how dramatically her life is about to change, Mother, who happens to be a man, whisks her away to a top-secret spy facility hidden away in a remote castle in Scotland, where she becomes part of a team of middle-school-aged intelligent agents. Along with Brooklyn herself, each of the other children is given a code name reflecting his or her city of origin – Paris, Rio, Sydney, and Kat (for Kathmandu) – and each one brings a unique skill set (computer hacking, picking pockets, etc.) to the team. Shortly after her arrival in Scotland, Brooklyn travels to Paris, along with her new friends, on a special mission to protect a world-famous entrepreneur, who may or may not be the same person as an infamous French thief known as the Fantome. To fulfill her part of the mission, Brooklyn must navigate the dark corridors of the French capital’s bone-filled catacombs, overcome her lifelong fear of heights to scale the side of a building, and rescue a vial filled with a dangerous, highly contagious virus from a murderous henchman. Edgar Award-winning author James Ponti’s writing is lively and crisp throughout the book, and the story, while as intricately plotted and fast-paced as an adult suspense novel, is constructed in a way that will be easy for young readers to follow. City Spies ends with a hint of a new mystery to follow, something I expect that most of the novel’s readers will eagerly anticipate.
David Shirley ©2020 Parents’ Choice
David Shirley’s recent nonfiction titles include A History of Brooklyn Bridge Park and Fix It Leroy! His YA biographies, Every Day I Sing the Blues: The Story of B. B. King and Satchel Paige: Baseball Legend were honored as the New York Public Library’s Best Books for Teens.