HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Checkmate in the Carpathians: Passport to Danger, Book Three
Author: Mary Reeves Bell
Cover Illustrator: Cheri Bladholm
Publisher: Kingsley Books, 2000
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 12 – 17
Rating: ***** 5 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Bell, Mary Reeves. Checkmate in the Carpathians: Passport to Danger, Book Three (Published in 2000 by Kingsley Books Inc., P. O. Box 121584, Nashville, TN 37212). Sixteen year old Constantine Kaye, usually just called Con, lives with his mother Roberta and step-father Nigel in Vienna, Austria. His father was killed before Con was born. Con’s best friend is Hannah Goldberg. Con and Hannah play chess while they take a rickety train to a dream skiing vacation at Iasi in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania, where they will be staying in style with Hannah’s uncle, Aaron Goldberg who is the new American ambassador, and Aunt Ruth. However, Con opens a letter from his elderly friend Maria Rozstoski describing a violent mystery from her Romanian youth near Iasi and asking him to look into it on his trip.
To make matters worse, Con thinks that he sees “Dirty Harry,” an escaped neo-Nazi terrorist named Hans Grunwald who swore to kill the two teens when they had earlier helped to convict him, on the same train. This adventure leads Con and Hannah straight into the dark corners of Europe’s anti-Jewish past. Can the two find out the information that Maria seeks? Is that really Grunwald whom Con sees on the train? And how does an orphan named Poppy fit into the picture? Checkmate in the Carpathians is a worthy successor to the two previous “Passport to Danger” books, The Secret of the Mezuzah (No. 1) and The Sagebrush Rebellion (No. 2).
The story not only is an exciting, suspenseful mystery with a poignant ending that will keep readers on the edge of their seats, but also contains some important historical material about World War II and the treatment of Romanian Jews by Romania’s brutal Iron Guard. There is also a warning about the dangers of anti-Semitism even today embedded in it. I agree with another reviewer who wrote, “Con and Hannah are great kids in a real world, and their friendship and adventures make for excellent story-telling…. This is top-notch high-quality Y[oung] A[dult] fiction with a Christian worldview.”