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Agent Q, or the Smell of Danger!: A Pals in Peril Tale

Review

Agent Q, or the Smell of Danger!: A Pals in Peril Tale

When M. T. Anderson's most recent Pals in Peril novel, JASPER DASH AND THE FLAME PITS OF DELAWARE, was published in 2009, Delaware governor Jack Markell famously wrote a letter to Anderson pointing out the numerous factual and geographical inaccuracies about the First State, as it's known, and encouraging him to "never choose our state as a setting for a book ever again."

It turns out that the governor of the country's second-smallest state might not have as much clout as he thought. Anderson is at it again, this time sending his intrepid trio of Jasper Dash, Katie Mulligan and Lily Gefelty, as well as their new friend --- the hunky young monk Drgnan Pghlik --- onto the hazardous, danger-infested streets of Wilmington.

All the kids want to do is get back to their homes in New Jersey safely, but it's not that easy. They're accompanied by a few of the monks of Vbegoom, the mysterious monastery that has mystically relocated to a new mountaintop somewhere else in the Blue Hen State, and they can't disclose its location to anyone, especially not the Awful and Adorable Autarch of Dagsboro. But his spies are everywhere, eager to turn in even their friends and families to the authorities in exchange for some great swag from a home-shopping catalog.

The Resistance is ready to help the trio as well, and clues are everywhere. Even something as innocent as ordering from a restaurant menu can have hidden meaning, and sentient lobsters might be concealing the location to a safe house. Most importantly, our young heroes must locate the mysterious Agent Q, who will usher them to the ferry that will take them home. Like most things in Delaware, however, Agent Q is not at all what the kids expect, and soon they're not sure whom to trust. Can they survive an appearance on the game show "This Is Your Double Life"? Can Lily get over her jealousy of Drgnan and Katie's mutual attraction? Can Jasper get over his jealousy of Agent Q's high-tech spy gadgets? Time will tell --- if it doesn't run out first.

It would be tempting to skip writing a review of Anderson's latest and instead fill this space with many of the endlessly delightful quotes that fill its pages. It's the kind of book that will have readers laughing like maniacs and then begging to read hilarious passages aloud to curious onlookers. But I'll resist the urge. Oh, except for this one: "In the darkness, the festive airborne town was like a whole mythology of constellations come to Earth to celebrate some holiday or great conjunction: Gemini, the Twins, bringing two pizzas, one veggie, one meat; Capricorn donating a cheesecake; Aquarius carrying a vat of ginger-ale punch served by the Big Dipper; and Cancer, the Crab, with Pisces, the Fish, whispering over in the corner, worried they'll encounter seafood dip near the chips. Um, that was kind of a long simile. All I'm really saying is that the lights were pretty."

AGENT Q, which is a pastiche of several genres (but mostly spy novels), is full of such tongue-in-cheek moments, not to mention blatantly ridiculous notions, such as a teenage monk who takes a Vow of Sarcasm or Drgnan's awe at the utter sameness of places like Connecticut. Slightly more sophisticated in its humor than the Lemony Snicket books, the Pals in Peril series will nevertheless appeal to children who appreciate a similarly snarky humor. There's a real sweetness at the heart of the book, however, as Lily and company not only negotiate their changing relationships but also come to appreciate what's really important. They've seen the wilds of dark and mysterious Delaware and lived to tell about it, but what they really want is just to go home.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on September 27, 2011

Agent Q, or the Smell of Danger!: A Pals in Peril Tale
by M. T. Anderson

  • Publication Date: September 27, 2011
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Beach Lane Books
  • ISBN-10: 1442426403
  • ISBN-13: 9781442426405