Take one soup heiress on a mission, two unconnected Siamese twins, a crossword puzzle expert in a crash helmet, and a mysteriously incomplete message, and you have The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel), a twisty-turny puzzle of a book that’s part melancholy tragedy, part slapstick hilarity, and part interactive detective fiction. If you’ve read The Westing Game (and if you haven’t, you should probably stop reading this and go read it immediately — I'll wait), you already know that Ellen Raskin is diabolically clever, fond of puzzles and planting clues in plain sight. In The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel), Raskin goes even further, directly encouraging the reader to participate in solving the mystery. (Mark this page! Remember this fact; it’s important!)
The story itself is simple: Mrs. Carillon is married at age seven to her neighbor and co-soup dynasty heir, Leon, who promptly goes away to school for fourteen years and changes his name to Noel. When he finally sends for her, their first conversation as adults is interrupted by a terrible boating accident: He only has time to gasp out a few word fragments before Mrs. Carillon is knocked out. When she wakes up in the hospital, Leon (I mean Noel) is gone, and Mrs. Carillon thinks the key to his location lies in his waterlogged message. She sets out to solve the puzzle and find her husband with vim and vigor. Along the way, she acquires a set of twins and reconnects with an old friend, who the twins think would make a much better husband for their adopted mother than the erstwhile Leon (I mean Noel). Once you read this book, you’ll see Raskin’s influence in all kinds of places: the solicitous narrator of A Series of Unfortunate Events and the complex codes of Blue Baillet’s books come immediately to mind.
We're reprinting some of Amy's summer reading series favorites from Atlanta Homeschool magazine on the home/school/life blog.
AMY SHARONY is the founder and editor-in-chief of home | school | life magazine. She's a pretty nice person until someone starts pluralizing things with apostrophes, but then all bets are off.