G.P. Putnam’s Sons
As if one couldn’t guess from the title, Winston Breen loves puzzles. Whether he’s in school, at home or in between, this is one kid who’s into creating, solving or thinking about puzzles “ all kinds.
But they cease to be all about fun and games when he inadvertently stumbles into a real-life treasure hunt, as an antique keepsake box he purchased for his sister’s 20th birthday is found to have a secret drawer. Hidden within are four wooden strips, each bearing an enigmatic word.
Through some amateur detective work, Winston finds his set of strips is just one of many, and when put together and deciphered, lead the way to a deceased townsman’s rumored million-dollar fortune. With stakes like that, one can bet danger is involved as well.
All the while Winston and his friends try to figure out that mystery, he takes breaks here and there to nearly 20 puzzles that appear throughout the chapters, including crosswords, brain teasers and word searches. The reader is asked to do them as well, although they’re not necessary to advance the plot.
Young readers, however, will find them fun, as they will the whole of this debut novel by Berlin, himself a part-time crossword constructor for The New York Times. It’s recommended for any kid who enjoys a good, clean challenge, or the young-adult mysteries of Encyclopedia Brown or “The Westing Game.” One hopes to see Winston in more adventures.