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Grade 5-7 - It is 1876, and Professor Brinton Garrett reluctantly agrees to accompany his ward, the irrepressible Vesper Holly; his wife Mary; and Vesper's friend Tobias ("The Weed") on a research trip to the site of the ancient city of Troy. En route, they are captured in Asia Minor by none other than Vesper's archenemy, Dr. Helvitius. After much derring-do and many improbable plot twists, the intrepid travelers manage to save both themselves and the world, and Vesper and The Weed even get married along the way. The action is almost nonstop, broken only by a fair amount of pontificating (both the professor and Helvitius are long-winded types), and readers won't get much of a sense of the exotic locale. Although Vesper is her usual plucky and quick-witted self, the character who really shines is our dear narrator, the long-suffering but lovable professor. His love for his family adds dimension to the wild action and makes the final plot twist all the sweeter. Buy where the series is popular. - Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library
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*Starred Review* Gr. 5-8. In search of a Trojan Rosetta stone, Vesper Holly is off to Asia Minor, along with her guardians, Mary and Professor Brinton Garrett; boyfriend Tobias "the Weed" Pasavant; and twins Smiler and Slider. Early in their travels, they sense "some kind of jiggery-pokery afoot." When they finally arrive at Xanadu, an edifice that "could have been the dream of a deranged architect," they find themselves prisoners of the archvillain Dr. Desmond Helvitius. Megalomaniac Helvitius sees oil as the future source of wealth and power and has designed a powerful petroleum-based weapon to carry out his dreadful schemes. Amid the thrills and chills, Vesper and the Weed marry. With a masterful mix of vivid description; robust, playful language; sly wit; and laugh-out-loud comedy, Alexander packs more mirth and adventure into his pages than some manage to do in novels triple the size. The surprising plot twists and suspenseful chapter endings make this an ideal read-aloud. A damsel who can handle any distress, Vesper is as plucky as ever in this splendid addition to a solid series. Linda Perkins
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