The Falcons Malteser
by Anthony Horowitz
The same Anthony Horowitz who brought us the adventures
of a 14-year-old spy named Alex Rider (soon to be a motion picture called Stormbreaker
), also wrote a series of juvenile hardboiled-detective novels starting in the 1980s. This book is one of these Diamond Brothers Mysteries Im not sure what order they were written in, because at this writing I havent got hold of all of them. But thanks to the dedication of this books 1995 reissue, and the miracle of internet research, I have learned that there was a TV movie and a six-episode series on the BBC in the early 1990s. (Tragically, but interestingly, the book is dedicated to actor Dursley McLinden, who played elder brother Tim Diamond in the movie and series, before his 1995 death at age 30.)
What, you may ask, besides a connection to an actor named Dursley, should make this book appeal to Harry Potter fans? Lots of things, I may answer. Let me name a few of them. First, show me 10 kids who have made-believe they were wizards, and I will show you 12 who made-believe they were detectives (or spies, for that matter). I myself was a big-time mystery buff when I was in the age range targeted by the Diamond Brothers series I didnt get into fantasy so much until I was an adult. Part of that may be that juvenile fantasy has only really taken off in a big way since J.K. Rowling opened the field; young readers mystery is as old as the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. To say nothing of Encyclopedia Brown...
Second, to continue my argumentative streak and further delay telling you about this book, the Diamond Brothers mysteries deliver many of the same kinds of pleasure as the Harry Potter books. At age 13, Nick Diamond (whose real last name is Simple) is practically an orphan bearing in mind, of course, that his parents are still alive. They were moving to Australia, but he ditched them at the airport and went back to live with his considerably older brother Tim (whose real first name is Herbert). He is a clever, brave boy who has no one to rely on but himself, and he is used to hardship. He is also witty, resourceful, and possessed of a happy combination of a strong will to survive and a talent for doing so in the most perilous situations you can imagine.
Third, did I mention that one of the ambiguous adult figures in Nicks life a police detective who is not altogether friend, nor altogether enemy is named SNAPE?
Cha-ching. Look out, Amazon. Theyre coming for the Diamond Brothers.
And now, a bit about the actual book. For those of you who missed it, The Falcons Malteser is a pun on The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett. Americans wouldnt necessarily know this, but Maltesers are like the British equivalent of the candy known as Whoppers in the U.S. From the pun on the title page, the book relentlessly spoofs (in a good-natured way) the whole genre of hard-boiled fiction and film noir. It features a master criminal known as the Fat Man (who is actually skeletally thin), a cabaret singer named Lauren Bacardi, and a flamboyantly deadly couple named Gott and Himmell. There are hidden diamonds, a secret key, assassination attempts, a couple of dead bodies (including a dwarf), cops who show up just on time to catch the good guys looking guilty, a couple of Casablanca in-jokes, and a frantic chase through Selfridges.
And to say that the Diamond Brothers are on the case would be exaggerating. Older brother Tim, who is actually a Private Eye, is the bumblingest detective who ever got gum stuck to his shoe. All the brains in the family went to Nick and all the guts, too. Hell need to use both if he wants to keep them intact and keep Tim alive too and have a chance at a $5 million payoff.
My only quibble is that, for some mysterious reason, the characters keep talking about dollars rather than pounds though the story is both written and set in London. Either Mr. Horowitz or his American editor should trust their American readers more. If we can make change in sickles and knuts, we can surely cope with pounds.
Nevertheless, this is a funny, action-packed, thrill-a-minute book with heroes you will like and villains you will love to hate. The mystery may or may not keep you guessing to the end; after following Harry Potter for a while, youre probably pretty good at reading clues. But the humor, the characters, and the action will keep you turning pages and leave you wanting to read the next Diamond Brothers Mystery you can get your hands on.
Recommended Age: 12+
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