In this first installment from the Crime Travelers series, an adventurous reading line-up that takes middle-grade readers around the globe, Paul Aertker’s Brainwashed delivers a story with exciting espionage and action-packed thrills.
A group of young teens is caught up in the nefarious dealings of a tyrannical woman and her powerful child kidnapping organization. With tenacity, courage, and determination, these members of the aptly named “New Resistance” use their backgrounds, knowledge, and skill sets to counter their powerful foe’s evil offenses.
At the center of the story is the likable, but often struggling thirteen-year-old Lucas Benes. As a young toddler, he was the sole survivor of a ferry boat explosion that killed his adoptive mother. Under his father’s guidance, Lucas has grown up at the Globe Hotel, an establishment that has evolved as a safe house for young people brought out of harm’s way from around the world. These individuals ultimately come together from various walks of life, gain skills and training to embark on missions to challenge global concerns.
This latest high alert “Call to Legs” pits the group against the notorious Siba Gunerro, the icy, pink poodle-toting, a ruthless leader who heads the ironically named Good Company. She’s infamously known for her brainwashing and kidnapping tactics. Soon Lucas and his multi-cultural band of cohorts depart from their high-tech Las Vegas hotel base and travel in a private luxury aircraft to the City of Lights, Paris, determined to take on Gunerro and her motley crew of henchmen.
With colorful refinement, Aertker delivers a multi-faceted ensemble of characters. In a mix that includes a surfer dude, a fashionista from India, and a Swiss Goth, among others, these are smart, multi-talented, multi-lingual personalities who, if were a t-shirt wearing group of crime fighters, the t-shirts might well read: “Grownups have messed up the world … it’s our job to make things right.”
As a newcomer joining the group, Lucas appears a vulnerable yet relatable individual who worries about stuff like sibling rivalry, parental approval, and has to deal with general angst. Ultimately, this here’s a first-class coming-of-age story with Lucas demonstrating confidence and proving his heartfelt loyalties and a willingness to step up and break the rules to help those in need.
Amidst the attention-grabbing likes of rooftop rappels, motorcycle chases, surprise abductions, rescues, a harrowing sacrilegious ceremony attempt at the time-honored landmark of Notre Dame cathedral and a wild bus ride, the nonstop action here moves the story steadily forward. Tension builds with this young group’s creative efforts to thwart the enemy and tackle each new deterrent in their path.
Whether you’re a preteen intrigued by the heroic activities of a well-trained group of spy kids or an older armchair traveler who can appreciate the sights and sounds of a major European mecca rich in history and culture brought to life as an enticing backdrop for fun, smart, and engaging entertainment, Brainwashed truly hits the mark.
Brainwashed: Crime Travelers Spy School Mystery & International Adventure Series, Book 1 by Paul Aertker won Grand Prize in the 2017 CIBAs – Gertrude Warner Awards for Middle-Grade Fiction.