Lantern Sam and the Blue Streak Bandits

Lantern Sam and the Blue Streak Bandits
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Release Date
April 08, 2014
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Lantern Sam is the wise-cracking, sarcastic, talking cat (for those who can hear him, that is) who lives onboard the Lake Erie Shoreliner train and is one of the best detectives no one knows about. He doesn't have much patience for humans (unless they bring him sardines), but when 10-year-old traveler Henry can't find his new friend, the exuberant Ellie, Sam's enlisted to help. A ransom note is soon discovered and just like that, Sam and Henry are on the case, with the help of Clarence the Conductor (who supplies Sam's sardines). But is Ellie still on board the train? Did the salesman with his trunk full of samples sneak her off? And why does that couple keep acting so suspicious? Veteran middle-grade mystery author Michael D. Beil has crafted a hilarious and appealing adventure set in the 1930s that's chock-full of quirky characters, red herrings, and all with an irresistible cat at its center.

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All Aboard for Ashtabula!
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It's not often that my birthplace makes it into middle grade fiction, so I was really excited to read this new book from Ohio native Beil.

Henry is traveling on the Lake Erie Shoreliner train in the 1930s from New York back home to Ashtabula, Ohio (the birthplace of Yours Truly, and pronounced ASH tuh BEW luh ) where his father is the captain of the Point Pelee, a freighter. He meets a rich heiress, Ellie, who is traveling to Conneaut (KAHN ee awt) to travel on the new roller coaster, the Blue Streak. She invites Henry to go with her family, but before long, she goes missing. Lantern Sam, a cat who hangs out with Clarence the Conductor, is able to telepathically communicate with both Henry and Clarence, and helps with the investigation. There are all manner of suspicious types on board, and many of them are not all that they seem to be. In between these investigations are Sam's stories of his close calls and previous investigations, many of which involve his much beloved sardines. Ellie is found, but her mother's expensive necklace, also called the Blue Streak, was used in the ransom, and finding it leads to even more evil doers, some of whom are unveiled during the Blue Streak's inaugural day.

Beil always does a great mystery, and I love how he brings in details of Ohio places! This had a lot of nice twists and turns, as well as some fun 1930s details. Henry and Ellie are fun characters, and as much as I didn't really want an epilogue set in the present day, I have to admit that I cried when I read it.
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