A humorous and thrilling story featuring unforgettable characters and a gripping narrative inspired by a difficult period in…
By M.M. Downing ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 21, 2023
In Waugh and Downing’s middle-grade historical novel set in 1935, a young boy with a dangerous secret and an unexpected companion must flee from ruthless pursuers. Lewis Carter, an 11-year-old living in Depression-era Pittsburgh, has been on his own since his chemistry professor father left for a mysterious meeting in 1934 and never returned. To survive, Lewis has been using his father’s secret “Recipe” of substances that create a harmless but blinding flash of light, allowing him to steal food from shops without being seen. Rumors of the Flash Gang, a group of criminals supposedly responsible for the thefts, have been circulating in the local newspapers. However, hardened criminals, aware of the Recipe’s potential for lethal violence, are determined to exploit it and track Lewis down. After kidnapping him and imprisoning him in a house, an unlikely rescuer appears in the form of Pearl Alice Clavell, a girl wearing a sparkly pink tutu and ballet slippers. Despite her eccentricities, Pearl’s true plight is revealed as the story progresses. The kidnappers’ identities and plans for the Recipe are eventually revealed, and Lewis and Pearl find allies in a sympathetic reporter and some tough but supportive street kids. The novel is set against a backdrop of widespread corruption, local mobsters, and the rise of Hitler sympathizers, all of which are accurately depicted. The story ends with an intriguing teaser for the next book in the series. Throughout the novel, Lewis is portrayed as a vulnerable character, struggling with his father’s disappearance and his asthma attacks made worse by the smog of Pittsburgh. Waugh and Downing have created a captivating story that realistically portrays a crisis-ridden time and place.
Pub Date: March 21, 2023
Page Count: 212
Publisher: Fitzroy Books
Review Posted Online: June 22, 2023