by Kevin Sands
Mysterious, cryptic and magical, The Blackthorn Key amazes. Apprentice to one of London's leading apothecaries, Christopher Rowe feels lucky to have left the orphanage and to learn a trade. Christopher is smart, attentive and good at solving puzzles. So much so, that for his birthday, Christopher's "master" gives him a cipher to solve.
A string of grisly murders has London on edge. Someone is murdering apothecaries. Christopher is worried about his employer. Oftentimes, the master is out all night only returning in the early morning hours. When his master comes home hurt and burned, Christopher makes it his business to solve the mystery. Then his master is brutally murdered, Christopher and his best friend Tom follow clues left by his master. The cipher proves difficult but with time, Christopher figures out the puzzle.
It is a rocky time in British history where groups of powerful men are eyeing the monarchy. Having a King in your corner is the quickest path to riches, and evil, corrupt men will stop at nothing to obtain what they want. Having a powerful weapon, a secret chemical weapon that only an apothecary can manufacture, would put you in power. For that kind of weapon, a corrupt person will stop at nothing, even murder.
Who will believe a mere apprentice? Christopher will have to have rock solid proof against the murderer, and he'll have to move fast. The murderer is not likely to stop. His crimes are becoming more and more gruesome with the discovery of each new body. If he suspects Christopher is onto him, the boy is in grave danger.
An exciting read that is a real page turner. The Blackthorn Key is a gem of a debut.
Highly, highly recommended grade 5-up.
FTC Required Disclaimer: I bought this book for our middle school library. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.
This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)