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Kiki Strike: The Empress's Tomb by Kirsten Miller
Review by Beth Slater
Bloomsbury USA Children's Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781599900476
Date: 02 October 2007 List Price $16.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Welcome to New York City, home of rogue princess Kiki Strike and her band of Irregulars. Sound familiar? Well, this story has nothing on Sherlock Holmes! The lead character in this particular mystery is Ananka Fishbein, one of the Irregulars. We begin our adventure helping with the mapping of the Shadow City – it's almost done, but this last little bit has some secrets of its own and Ananka is just the person to unearth them. However, giant squirrels are popping up all over the city while people are claiming muggings – by gigantic squirrels! What in the world could be going on? Ananka is suspicious of the stories until one of her fellow Irregulars is mugged – and now the only map of the Shadow City is missing. The Irregulars band together to solve the mystery of the secret squirrels – and end up uncovering a much bigger secret than a nutcracker!

Tensions are running high amongst the Irregulars – Oona is being irascible while Kiki is missing meetings and not returning calls. With the introduction of Kaspar, the boy who lives in the park, to the group, uncertainty writhes its way into the trust of the friends. Not to mention the pressure from Ananka's parents, who are noticing her school absences and exhaustion which have been causing lower grades at her private school. With the threat of a farm-based boarding school on the horizon, she continues to risk her freedom for the Irregulars despite the doubts that have been creeping in about the loyalty of some members. Their arch-enemy (well, one of them at least) Lester Liu has retired from the crime life and has suddenly become a benevolent philanthropist, but the girls can't believe the abrupt change in character and dig to find the truth behind the haunted mansion where he now lives, as well as the art exhibition he's donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But will they live to uncover Liu's deceptions to the public, or will the Shadow City rats become immune to the rat-repellent fragrance and attack?

This is an awesome young adult/juvenile mystery. There is a lot of character development and many sub-plots going on to help with the concepts of loyalty and trust amongst friends & family, as well as the moral of believing in people and liking someone – no matter the age or sex – for who they are. Bonus information is provided on how to know if your house is haunted, improve your memory, and things you can learn by going through the trash.

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