Disappearing Act by Jacqueline Harvey

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Kensy and Max book 2. Penguin, 2018. ISBN 9780143780632
(Age: 9-12) Recommended. Themes: Twins, Spies, Mystery, Espionage. Eleven-year-old twins Kensy and Max return in Disappearing Act another thrilling, action-packed adventure. Author Jacqueline Harvey's second novel in this series is fast-paced, capturing the interest of both boys and girls who will enjoy the twins' spy training, their growing friendship with other spies in training and the further revelations about the family's secrets. As the twins learn new skills, develop their talents and forge new friendships, we come to understand more about their own family secrets and the secret Pharos society.
Max and Kensy are studying spy craft; all of their teachers at the Central London Free School are all agents assisting in their training. Their dormitories are located in the stables at Dame Spencer's mansion, head of Pharos and the twins' grandmother. Late night forays and early morning explorations uncover hidden family secrets as the children search for meaning about their family history and their parents' disappearance.
The twins' race-track lesson, spectacularly turns into a frightening incident when their car is sabotaged. There are undercurrents and tensions amongst the adults staying at the mansion but the Christmas Eve celebrations, complete with festive food, dancing and an ugly sweater competition lighten the mood.
A planned school trip to Rome suddenly takes on a much more serious note when Kensy and Max become involved in solving the disappearance of the Prime Minister's son. Powerful people greedy for money and an organised gang of young thieves make trouble for the twins. Kensy's keen skills of observation and Max's ability to navigate through the streets of Rome past famous landmarks are vital to their secret mission.
Jacqueline Harvey's Disappearing Act is filled with a cast of exciting characters with this series appealing to both boy and girl readers. Advanced technology, special gadgets, coded messages and old-fashioned sleuthing add to the drama. Her detailed settings in London, the palatial English country mansion and the vibrant city of Rome heighten the drama as well. Themes of friendship, family loyalty, collaboration and the strength of the twins' bond make this second novel in the Kensy and Max series a highly engaging read. Use of the Pigpen Cipher throughout gives readers a chance to practice their code-breaking skills. Of course we are left with unanswered questions and must eagerly await the next book to reveal more about the twin's past and see where their future missions take them.
Rhyllis Bignell