Strike Three, You're Dead (Lenny and the Mikes #1)
March 12, 2013
Lenny Norbeck is a die-hard baseball lover. Unfortunately, he's no player himself (according to him, he's "the worst there ever was.") But he'd make a heck of an announcer. He gets a lot of practice sitting with his best friends, Mike and Other Mike, watching Phillies games from their lawn couch—a sweet outdoor TV arrangement Mike's dad hooked them up with. Being a real announcer is his dream, and he gets his chance to prove himself when he enters an "Armchair Announcer" contest and wins. The prize: he gets to be the broadcaster, live, for one inning at a real Phillies game. The game goes very wrong, though. Before Lenny gets to do his inning, a young, promising pitcher fresh out of the minors literally drops dead on the mound. The official verdict is that he died of a heart attack, but Lenny has a hunch there's something more going on. So he and the Mikes set out to investigate. The suspects are many, and though the trio barks up the wrong tree a few times, they are always right on the heels of the real killer. . . .
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Berk has a couple of good young adult mysteries (The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin, Josh Langan: Crime Scene Procrastinator), but I think he has really has a great voice for middle grade literature. Lenny is a hoot, and I loved that both of his friends were named Mike! They al get excited about things and go off half-prepared, and it is always funny. Maria is a great character-- a strong girl that Lenny has a little bit of a crush on. Side characters, like the announcers, the librarian, and the parents are all amusing and just quirky enough to be funny and not annoying. The mystery is a bit improbable, but has a nice twist, and working baseball into the story is great. I would love to see another book involving these characters. The cover is especially nice-- striking and won't date. Brilliant.
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