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Framed!: 12/19/16

Framed! by James Ponti

Framed! by James Ponti is the first in the TOAST middle grade mystery series. TOAST stands for Theory of All Small Things — a form of inductive reasoning similar to what Sherlock Holmes is known for.

Florian Bates is newly moved to Washington, DC. His parents work at the National Gallery so he and his new friend, Margaret, are able to spot some things amiss — things that help track down the identity of an art thief.

For the most part, this book is a fun mystery — part caper, part Sherlockian pastiche. For the caper part — the art theft — I'm reminded of the season two episode, "A Steele at Any Price" of Remington Steele.

The other mystery occupying Florian's time is the identity of Margaret's parents. She was left as an infant at a firehouse and she wants to know if Florian's TOAST technique can work.

All of this is told in a coherent, fast paced, compelling fashion. There's just one annoying detail — the extended flashback. The whole thing starts with Florian being kidnapped by a Safeway. And then rather than telling us how he escapes or if he needs rescuing, we're treated to the rest of this story — of him moving to DC, meeting Margaret, the art theft, the FBI, and so forth.

There's absolutely nothing about the rest of the book that needs a kidnapping as a hook. Florian is a well written, believable character — someone who is smart but not weirdly so. A lot of his smarts come from a wide variety of experiences. Margaret, is just as well written and smart in her own but different than Florian way. Their meeting flows organically into her learning how to do TOAST and to them uncovering the art theft and to Florian later recognizing his kidnapper. It does not need a flashback.

Four stars

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