“The Strangers: Greystone Secrets” is the first book in this new series by bestselling children’s author Margaret Peterson Haddix. Haddix is no stranger to writing children’s series that are thrilling and that kids love to read including “The Missing” and “Shadow Children.” This series promises to be just as exciting and addicting as those.
In the first book, “The Strangers,” the reader meets siblings Chess, Emma, and Finn. They are 12, 10, and 8 respectively. Emma is a math prodigy, and both of the older siblings take care of Finn. That becomes especially important early in the book when their mom leaves them with a stranger and goes off on a business trip.
Just before she had left on her trip, something eerie happened. Three kids were kidnapped across the country in Arizona; three siblings with the same names and the same birthdays as Chess, Emma, and Finn. Although the oldest child has a different nickname, his real name, Rochester, is the same. Emma is frustrated trying to figure out the odds of that happening randomly. Their mother starts acting strangely when she sees the news of the kidnapping on the news. Then she leaves on her business trip.
When the children visit their house to feed their cat, they do some snooping. Every other time their mother had to go on a trip, she called them constantly and regularly, and now she does not. They are devastated when they find that their mother took neither her business computer nor her cell phone with her. In fact, they manage to find some text messages on her cell phone scheduled to be sent later in the week, and the news in the texts is not good. On her computer, they also find an encrypted letter they are supposed to receive in a week. Part of the letter is in code, and working feverishly together, they manage to decode part of the letter. Finn also finds something encoded on the computer that gives them another clue in solving the mystery of where their mother went and why.
Luckily, Natalie, the daughter in the house where they are staying, has great detective skills, and she helps them find out more information. Yet when they finally follow some clues, they accidentally stumble into the biggest mystery yet — the place where their mother is.
The kids find that by working together, they can achieve far more than any one of them could alone. The story is told in third person, but alternating chapters are from each of the three kids’ point of view. Haddix’ writing is perfect for middle grade readers. The dialogue is realistic, the actions of the kids believable. Haddix is also a master at writing books in a series where each book has an ending, but there is more mystery to be solved in the next book. In that way, the reader is satisfied but still anxious to read the next one.
“The Strangers” is a great choice for almost every reader: the mystery reader, the action reader, the scifi reader, the reluctant reader, and the voracious reader. It would be a great read aloud — the kids would be hooked within a few chapters.
Please note: This review is based on the advance reader’s edition provided by the publisher, Katherine Tegen Books, for review purposes.