Kate Messner’s Capture the Flag intrigued me mostly on the issue of setting. How do you use an airport locked down in a snowstorm as the entire setting for a mystery story? Messner shows how, as her three young protagonists work frantically to discover a stolen flag (of great national and historical importance) before the storm clears and their flights leave. I was reminded a bit of Agatha Christie, for some reason. Not so much for the writing — their styles are very different — but for the claustrophobic nature of the setting, and of course, the wily intelligence and persistence of the detectives.
In this novel for middle school readers, Messner brings together three young people — Anna, José, and Henry — who begin as strangers sitting together at a gathering in Washington DC with respective relatives yapping it up with other adults, and end up teaming up in the airport after they learn that the flag in question has been stolen. The three kids suspect the thieves are not only in the airport, but so is the flag. The story unfolds at a quick pace, with its fair share of red herrings and dangerous situations, and Messner weaves in themes of politics, immigration and secret societies to fill the pages. She even leaves open the very real possibility of a sequel — a wise move for these three kids who have proven their worth when the flag gets recovered and the thieves exposed.
Oh, and can I just say: the cover to this book is very cool and intriguing.
Peace (in the stars and stripes forever),