‘City Spies: City of the Dead’ by James Ponti continues the thrilling series that middle grade readers (and older fans) will really enjoy

The “City Spies” series showcases James Ponti’s impressive writing style, and the latest entry in the series, “City of the Dead,” is no exception. Ponti jumps in with fast-paced action almost immediately. After a brief foray into the past, when the most famous tomb, that of the boy king, Tutankhamen, was found by a 12-year-old Egyptian boy, we jump into the present day as a group of kids is attempting to break into the British Museum.

These teenagers are not juvenile delinquents; they are the youngest members of MI6, an elite family of spies headed by Mother, who in actuality is their father, having adopted them all. Each of the “City Spies” has a special talent, and in each book we’ve learned more and more about them. In this one, Ponti focuses on Kat, short for Katmandu, where she is from. Kat’s strength is also her weakness. She loves patterns and order, adores prime numbers, and gets unsettled when there is chaos.

The British Museum caper was just a test, and the team learns that there is a lot on the line in their next mission. Some of the most powerful institutions in England are being threatened, and this group of young spies might be the best bet for figuring out who the terrorist is. The group has some suspects almost from the start, but they must identify which is the guilty party. And for that, they will need to leave their home and travel into unfamiliar territory.

One of Ponti’s many talents is creating likable characters, each of whom has a strength, but is not an infallible human being. Here the group must travel to Cairo to uncover the plot that threatens to bring down those powerful institutions. A new member of the team, Robert, must prove his worth even though many on the team don’t trust him. And the lovely descriptions of the Cairo setting adds dimension to the mystery.

The action, the dialogue, the humor, all make these books eminently readable, and the diverse characters and family dynamics make the series thoughtful as well. Ponti introduces history and geography throughout the pages as the group follows the clues and figures out codes, and as they learn to trust not only each other but themselves. And they have some fun along the way.

While this book, like the others, has a satisfying ending, Ponti cleverly leaves a mystery that will keep readers waiting for the next book in the series to see where the loyalty of the new team member really lies. Can’t wait.

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Aladdin Books, the publisher, for review purposes.