In her latest book for middle-graders, prolific non-fiction author Elizabeth MacLeod presents six stories about mysterious disappearances in chronological order, starting with the 17th-century North Carolina settlement of Roanoke Island, and ending with a 1990 art heist from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Art Museum.
MacLeod’s greatest strength has always been her enthusiasm for her subject matter, and the same holds true in this effort. With her upbeat tone and curiosity, the author draws readers into each mystery, imparting just the right amount of detail to inform and entertain without rendering her text overly didactic.
The book’s design is fairly uncluttered, featuring sidebars and appropriate imagery, including historical photographs, maps, posters, and more. While these visuals add to the overall effectiveness of the book, MacLeod at times references photos or other images that are not included, which can be frustrating.
Each entry begins with a fictionalized vignette that provides some background information about the disappearance, which MacLeod then ably explores in the following pages. However, the sections end with an abrupt shift from MacLeod’s engaging narrative to spreads in which the more technical or scientific aspects of the mysteries are discussed. While these pages are interesting, they leave the reader feeling cheated out of more satisfying conclusions to the stories that preceded them. Still, the combination of MacLeod’s storytelling and the resources included at the back of the book are sure to engage intrigue-loving kids.