Florian is 12 years old and has just moved to Washington. He’s learning his way around using TOAST, which stands for the Theory of All Small Things. It’s a technique he invented to solve life’s little mysteries such as: where to sit on the first day of school, or which Chinese restaurant has the best eggrolls.
But when he teaches it to his new friend Margaret, they uncover a mystery that isn’t little. In fact, it’s huge, and it involves the National Gallery, consulting for the FBI, and a notorious crime syndicate known as EEL.
I’m going to start by saying what we are all thinking, who in their right mind would name their kid Florian? Anyway, the first chapter starts in a scene that takes place later on in the story and the chapter ends with Florian making a big breakthrough.
Chapter 2 starts by going back three months, when Florian first moved to Washington. The story continues on chronologically until the scene in chapter 1 and moves forwards until the end of the story. This seemed like an odd way to tell the story but then I realized it was a way to capture the reader’s attention in the very beginning.
The plot dives deep into the world of art as well as the world of art theft, all subjects I found surprisingly interesting.
A 12-year-old boy consulting with the F.B.I. to solve crimes, not exactly realistic but it makes for a good story. The truly unrealistic thing is that Florian’s parents know he works for the F.B.I. and they’re ok with it. This is weird because in most middle school stories parents usually aren’t that involved in the plot or just aren’t there period.
Florian’s TOAST technique is all about paying close attention to the small details and putting them together to reveal the big picture. Since my favorite part of any mystery is when the detective explains how he solved the case, I enjoyed every time Florian explains how he figures out so much about a person just by observing them.
After helping the FBI solve an art theft at the National Gallery and uncovering a DC spy ring, Florian’s finding life at Alice Deal Middle School a little boring. But that’s all about to change! His FBI handler, Marcus, has a job for him! Is it a bank robbery? Counterfeit ring? International espionage? Actually, it’s middle school pranks…
Sounds pretty ordinary except that the pranks are happening at a prestigious private school attended by the President’s daughter who may—or may not—be involved. So, Florian and Margaret are going undercover to see if they can use their TOAST skills to figure out what’s going on before the media gets hold of the story.
However, once the crime-solving pair arrive at the school, they discover that there’s a lot more than a few pranks going on and the conspiracy of silence reaches all the way to the top. Then a student vanishes in the middle of a concert at the Kennedy Center and things take a sinister turn!
This story starts the same way the first one does. Only this time, the story goes back nine days instead of three months. But a lot can happen in just 9 days.
I personally found this story’s mystery more engaging than the first one. For one thing, it takes place in a more familiar setting: a school. Albeit, a school for kids with influential and powerful parents but a school is still a school. At first, the story’s mystery revolves around the school’s mass history as well as many occurrences throughout America’s history. But don’t let this fool you. There’s more going on than you can possibly imagine.
Florian and Margaret are the perfect kid detective team. They have a solid friendship built on mutual respect, are both genuinely smart, and use their keen eye for details to make logical deductions.
When Florian and Margaret’s FBI supervisor, Marcus Rivers, is accused of a crime, it’s up to this mystery solving duo to jump into action and clear his name, because Marcus is more than their boss—he’s family.
The case involves one of Marcus’s first investigations for the FBI and a Russian spy ring. However, when the spy they are chasing learns what they’re up to, the tables are turned, and Marcus finds himself implicated in a variety of crimes, including theft, corruption, and espionage. For Florian and Margaret, it just got personal. They’re going to catch the spy and clear Marcus’s name…even if they have to break into (and out of) the Library of Congress to do it.
This is by far the most complex and intricate mystery Florian and Margaret have yet to face. I recommend reading this book, as well as the others, as fast as you can and don’t just read a little bit at a time. Trust me, you will lose important details if you read too slow.
According to a passage in the book, The Library of Congress “is the largest library in the world. Its main purpose is to provide research and information for members of Congress so they’re properly informed as they debate issues of government”. The inner workings of the Library of Congress are explained in detail throughout the story including the Rare Book Division and the different branches of the DC Public Library. Bottomline, this story has everything you ever wanted to know about the Library of Congress.
A bit of a spoiler, the ongoing mystery on Margaret’s birth parents that develops throughout all three books will be coming to a somewhat confusion. You’ll have to read the book to figure out what I mean by ‘somewhat’.
Overall, this is a great series for readers who love a good mystery. If you enjoy this series, I recommend checking out shows like Monk and Psych.
This weeks’ Weird but True Facts about Stolen Art, Thomas Jefferson, and the Library of Congress
The “Mona Lisa,” painted in the 1500s, became famous only when art thieves stole it from a museum 400 years ago.
President Thomas Jefferson once received a 1,235-pound block of cheese as a gift. (Look it up)
The Library of Congress adds about 12,000 items to its collection each day.