By Greg Lyons
Published by Bloomsbury
ISBN 978 1408816745
Avery McShane is the new teen hero on the block, and we're pleased to report that his first adventure is an action-packed page-turner. It sets out its intentions in the first few pages, and keeps firmly on track until its gripping climax. Filled with suspense, mystery and danger, and peppered with quick teenage banter, this book knows its readers and piles on exactly what they want in spadefuls.
This is a boys-own adventure (ask your dad or grandad) aimed firmly at boys in the 11-15 range, readers who often miss out on great stories. Avery McShane is a very welcome attempt to address that imbalance. Author Greg Lyons is on to a winner from the start. Lyons grew up in Venezuela, and it's in this fascinating landscape that he sets this adventure.
Avery is a young American expat living in Campo Mata, a camp in the middle of the South American jungle, run by his engineer father, and owned by a US oil company. There are other families in the camp, and Avery has Billy and Todd, two close friends, to back him up and spur him on when adventure comes knocking. Avery is a personable hero and narrator, and Lyons brings him to life with zest and a lot of humour.
Lyons establishes the setting and characters in the first few pages, and then it's all systems go. Avery and his two pals have formed an exclusive gang and call themselves the Machacas. Adventure is always in the air: they know secret places in the jungle and have built a tree house from which girls, parents and other interfering adults are banned.
Each week, the Machacas set themselves a dare, and this week they decide to break into Pablo Malo's banana plantation, pick fruit from one of the trees, and get out as quickly as possible. While they know they may run into trouble, what the boys don't expect to find is a dead body. This gruesome discovery sees Avery and his friends turn detective as they seek the truth about what the devious Senor Malo is up to.
A simple dare quickly turns into a full-blooded adventure, with gun-carrying villains, floods, explosions and all kinds of dangerous mayhem thrown into Avery's path as he risks his life to unmask the villain. And when the boys discover that the local police assistant isn't to be trusted, and Captain Gomez, the police chief, goes missing, the boys add to their list of truths to uncover.
This is unashamedly a novel for lads: it doesn't quite carry a "Girls, Keep Out" label on the cover, but it might just as well. Boys will lap this up and eagerly await Avery's next adventure.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com