The secret abyss: A Jack Mason adventure by Darrell Pitt

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The Text Publishing Company, 2014. ISBN 9781922147967
(Ages 10 to 15) Recommended. In this sequel to The Firebird Mystery, we are again immersed in the Steampunk world of Jack Mason, a 14 year old orphan working as an assistant to detective Ignatius Doyle. Jack, Mr Doyle, Scarlet and Bertha the tarantula, travel by airship from London to New York , where they must try to stop the deadly assassin The Chameleon from assassinating the President and sending the country to the brink of another Civil War. There is also the threat of a device called the Whip of Fire which is believed to have the power to destroy the whole planet.
This is an exciting adventure, set in an alternative history of steam-powered cars and airships. There are enough thrills and near-misses to keep middle school readers engaged, even when the Civil war politics and history ideas may become confusing. Older readers will enjoy the steampunk atmosphere and the often-absurd humour which pops up. It introduces some themes not generally found in books for this age, especially suffragettes. There is some wonderful character development in this book, and it will be interesting to see this continue in the next title.
Donella Reed