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The 39 Clues, Book Five: The Black Circle


The 39 Clues, Book Five: The Black Circle

When Grace Cahill passed away, relatives oozed out of the woodwork in hopes of getting their hands on her fortunes. But Grace wasn't your typical old lady, and she didn't leave this world in typical fashion either. Instead of a will and an inheritance, she left behind a quest involving 39 clues that lead to a vast wealth and the highest authority imaginable. Now, six teams of Cahill relatives are racing around the world, chasing after intricately placed clues left behind by other famous Cahills, like Ben Franklin. The race is on, and there aren't any rules.

Fourteen-year-old Amy and her 11-year-old brother, Dan, make up one of the teams. Orphaned and unwanted by everyone except their beloved, and now deceased, grandmother, the siblings don't have anything to lose and have decided to go for it. But unlike their opponents, they have no money, no connections and no special training, not to mention the fact that they're just kids. Plus, Amy is shy and stutters when she's nervous, and Dan tends to be impulsive. This team has the odds of winning seriously stacked against them. But they do have a few pieces of jewelry from their grandmother to sell for expenses, a very cool au pair traveling with them, and, above all, a great deal of spunk, smarts and determination. And they've kept up with their opponents so far, somehow.

Jumping straight into the next leg of the race, Amy and Dan receive a telegram delivered to their hotel room in Cairo. It directs them to a locker at the airport, and is signed with the mysterious initials NRR. Dare they trust this stranger? Or is it just another deadly trick set up by one of their conniving relatives/opponents in the mad dash for the clues? Without anything else to go on, Amy and Dan slip out of the hotel, leaving a note for their sleeping au pair Nellie, stating that they went out for donuts. They never return.

What they find in the airport locker shocks both of them. It also points the way to Russia with two plane tickets, fake passports and disguises to make them appear older. While hitting their stockpile of junk food on the long flight, Amy and Dan tackle the mysterious message left for them in the locker. Of course, it isn’t too long before they run into a few of the other teams, as everyone scrambles for a handhold and is willing to do almost anything to get one. Realizing they need a bit of help, they zero in on Hamilton Holt with whom to make an alliance. All of their past alliances have almost ended in deadly disaster, but once again, they feel they have no choice. 

As Amy and Dan race through the hints left by the mysterious NRR, they learn about the tragic story behind the royal Russian family, the Romanovs, including Anastasia and Alexei, and the monk named Rasputin who worked with them. They also find themselves once again coming way too close to death. But they refuse to give up, especially when NRR hints they may find information about their deceased and dearly missed parents. The race is on!

Bestselling author Patrick Carman jumps in the driver’s seat for the fifth leg of this incredible, mind-boggling race, and he does so with a gifted imagination and a brilliant knack for storytelling. He does an amazing job concocting the clever clues that pull Amy and Dan into Russia, and then shares some Russian history in an interesting and mind-grabbing way. Carman also has a talent for intense action sequences and end-of-chapter cliffhangers that really keep the story moving fast. And his hysterical sense of humor is splattered throughout the pages.

Carman and THE BLACK CIRCLE are amazing additions to this outstanding series. And fans won’t have to wait too terribly long for book six, due out in early November. In the meantime, log on to to hunt for the clues and have a chance to win some fabulous prizes.

Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman on August 1, 2009

The 39 Clues, Book Five: The Black Circle
(The 39 Clues #5)
by Patrick Carman

  • Publication Date: August 1, 2009
  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press
  • ISBN-10: 0545060451
  • ISBN-13: 9780545060455