Title: The Ambrose Deception
Author: Emily Ecton
Genre: Middle Grade Mystery
Publication date: February 13 2018
Paperback: 368 pages
Melissa is a nobody. Wilf is a slacker. Bondi is a show-off. At least that’s what their middle school teachers think. To everyone’s surprise, they are the three students chosen to compete for a ten thousand-dollar scholarship, solving clues that lead them to various locations around Chicago. At first the three contestants work independently, but it doesn’t take long before each begins to wonder whether the competition is a sham. It’s only by secretly joining forces and using their unique talents that the trio is able to uncover the truth behind the Ambrose Deception–a truth that involves a lot more than just a scholarship.
With a narrative style as varied and intriguing as the mystery itself, this adventure involving clever clues, plenty of perks, and abhorrent adults is pure wish fulfillment.
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
How did I get this book: Review Copy from the publisher
Format (e- or p-): ebook
The weight of expectations – good and bad – are at the centre of this fun Middle Grade mystery/adventure.
Melissa, a studious but underappreciated kid whose teachers and counsellors think she will amount to nothing. With money problems at home, Melissa helps other kids with their homework… for a fee.
Wilf, a slacker and sometimes chance thief, whose absent parents leave a hole in his life and a desire in his heart for company.
Bondi, smart and self-confident, a bit of a show-off but extremely capable kid whose home life is a bit on the expecting-too-much of him side.
To absolutely everybody’s surprised – even their own – the three are chosen to compete against each other for a prestigious scholarship contest and the winner gets ten thousand dollars. The rules are clear: each gets a folder with three clues to solve (with photographic evidence) in order to move to the next stage, they can’t discuss them with each other or anybody else for that matter. Each is given a personal driver, a credit card and a mobile.
After signing a non-disclosure agreement with their sponsor they set off toward success or failure.
And at first, Bondi is the one truly get into the game head-on while Melissa is dubious of if, thinking she is being pranked and that things smell really, really fishy. Meanwhile, Wilf is so certain he is going to lose anyway, he decides to just enjoy the perks and bucket lists his way around Chicago.
Eventually, they all start solving the clues which leads them down a rabbit hole of deception, lies and even more mysteries. The truth behind the scholarship goes beyond their wildest dreams and it’s only working together (against the rules) that the kids will be able to solve it all.
The Ambrose Deception is an engaging, fast-paced mystery with a side of cool educational tourism for Chicago’s landmarks and added visual/epistolary elements that enrich the narrative. I had a great time reading it – especially with the more character-driven elements of the story. Of those, my favourites were the close bonds that eventually formed between the drivers and the kids, and the slow reveal of what lies behind Melissa, Bondi and Wilf’s public personas as well as the thoughtful examination of how expectations of failure and success that are put on kids can be rather harmful. These are interwoven into what is a primarily plot-driven narrative that reminded me a little bit of The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin and which was a whole lot fun.
Rating: 7 – Very Good t