Shadow Beast is the second book in Justin Richards' Invisible Detective series (I reviewed the first book here). These are quick mysteries featuring the alternating viewpoints of Arthur Drake, living in modern-day London, and Art, living in 1930's London. Most of the story concerns Art, head of a group of young detectives called the Cannoniers who, together, comprise the mysterious Invisible Detective. They're much like Sherlock Holmes' Baker Street Irregulars, only without Holmes to guide them. They do have Art's Dad, a Scotland Yard detective, and another older mentor, Charlie, to help them out from time to time. And people believe that they work for Brandon Lake, the non-existent Invisible Detective.
In this installment, Art and the other Cannoniers (Meg, Jonny, and Flinch) are asked by a stranger, Mr. Fredericks, to help search for his missing cat, Tiger. It quickly becomes clear that Mr. Fredericks is hiding something, especially after Tiger turns up torn apart. Rumors start to surface regarding other dead cats, and sightings of a mysterious, rat-like beast in the sewer drains. Meanwhile, in the modern world, Arthur and his grandfather are also on the trail of a mysterious beast, one that has resurfaced in London. Both stories feature plenty of creepy Gothic horror scenes, with rats that over-run a house, a disappearing grandfather, and mysterious creatures roaming about in slimy sewers. A good half of the story takes place below ground. Of course there are opportunities for bravery and cleverness on the part of Arthur and the Cannoniers, too.
I didn't find this book quite so compelling as the first book in the series, because some of the mystery has gone out of the alternating viewpoints. In the first book the relationship between Arthur and Art is unclear (are they the same person, traveling through time? They have the same handwriting, and live in the same house, and both have cops for fathers). In the second book, we know that Art is Arthur's grandfather and namesake. However, there are still interesting time slips, in which Art sees images of things from Arthur's world, and vice versa. Unraveling these mysteries will keep me coming back for more.
This is a very quick read, and the alternating viewpoints should keep reluctant readers turning the pages. I think that these books will especially appeal to fans of John Bellairs books (The House with a Clock in its Walls, etc.), as well as to kids who have outgrown the Goosebumps books. The kids in both storylines are plucky and appealing, with the homeless girl Flinch a particularly sympathetic character. I recommend this series for middle grade fans of mystery or creepy suspense.
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.