Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Middle-Grade/Teen Review: Murder at Midnight

Believe it or not, I had never read an Avi book until last week when I picked up his latest, Murder at Midnight. Ever since my son read Crispin by Avi years ago, he has been telling me what a good author he is. Murder at Midnight was a quick, suspenseful read that I enjoyed very much.

It is 1490 in a small town in Italy, and a young boy named Fabrizio is adjusting to his new job working for Mangus the Magician:

During the past year, his parents – ragpickers – had died, leaving him a homeless ten-year-old. Only by relying on his wits and friends did Fabrizio survive the streets of Pergamontio. But a month ago, the City Corporation, which had the responsibility for orphans, bound him over to Mangus the Magician.

It was the magician’s wife, Mistress Sophia, who made the arrangements. It was she who insisted that her elderly husband needed a personal servant. She herself proved kind, and Fabrizio was thrilled not to be begging on the streets for a daub of cold, clotted pasta for his dinner. Now he had good food in his belly, a roof over his head, a bed for his back, and even a few coins for his pocket. Besides, not only did Master Mangus have a house with two older servants, there was his amazing magic.

Mangus is an illusionist, though to Fabrizio, his magic seems real. Both of them find themselves under suspicion and at the center of a plot to overthrow the king. Fabrizio wants to save his new master and prove his worth to him, but he doesn’t know who to believe or who to trust. Faced with possible death for himself and Mangus, it’s up to Fabrizio to figure out who’s behind the sinister plot.

As I said, this was my first Avi book, but it’s easy to see why his books are so popular. This one was filled with wonderful details of the historical period, realistic dialogue, and a fast-paced mystery plot. I’m looking forward to reading its sequel, Midnight Magic.

254 pages, Scholastic

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