Close to the Heel (Seven the Series)
The book in one sentence: To fulfill his late grandfather's request, Rennie hies off to Iceland!
Synopsis: No one is more surprised than Rennie to hear that his late grandfather, whom he hardly knew, has left a mission for him to fulfill. Rennie is to fly to Iceland and deliver a message from beyond the grave, but when he gets there, nothing is simple or straightforward. For one thing, Brynja, the teenage daughter of the family he's staying with, is downright hostile. Her father Einar, who is to be Rennie's guide in Iceland, is preoccupied with looking after his elderly father-in-law, an old friend of Rennie's grandfather. Bored and a little bit annoyed, Rennie explores the town and becomes aware that the family is dealing with more than their grief over Brynja's mother's death the year before. Before he realizes what is happening, his curiosity puts Rennie in grave danger, with no one to trust and no one to save him except himself.
My two centsI really enjoyed this! Plus I like the concept of the series: a dying grandfather leaves a video detailing a mission for each of his seven grandsons to fulfill -- so they go off and gallivant in some exotic place to fulfill the mission. Does this sound familiar? Think The 39 Clues, which is pretty much based on the same premise; the only thing is doesn't have is the competitive side of The 39 Clues, although it has as much danger, action and adventure in it.
This book zeroes in on Rennie, who grew up with his strict yet loving military dad, still reeling from the death of his mother. Characterised as a "bad boy," acting out his frustrations by slacking off in school, and other tomfoolery that eventually lands him in juvenile detention.
Rennie never knew his maternal grandfather, save for occasional (and rather impersonal) phone calls and the one time that he runs away from home and ends up in his grandfather's home. This one instance allows Rennie to get a glimpse of what a wonderful man his grandfather is, and the adventurous life he led. Initially resistant to the mission, Rennie's father eventually gives in and Rennie is off to Iceland to leave a memento of his grandfather's past love and an old, old friendship!
Once in Iceland, the seemingly simple mission becomes fraught with complications, and Rennie becomes embroiled in a local mystery, gets mixed up with unsavoury characters, and lands himself in danger. This plays itself out ... to a rather surprising ending!
Throughout I enjoyed the small glimpses into Icelandic traditions, some tourist spots, and the landscape. The banter and love-hate between Rennie and the young girl Brynja also added a bit of personality.
Overall, while the overall story is well done, I couldn't help noticing how complicated and confused the relationships (who is he again?) and the plot (errr, what just happened?) became towards the end, in the bid to wrap up everything nicely. Nonetheless, this is definitely a great read for middle-years kids and The 39 Clues fans.
Verdict: A quick middle-years read that will satisfy your inner child's need for mystery, action and adventure! Don't pick it apart because you'll find that it all doesn't add up as you first thought!
First line: I'm going to die. It's as simple as that. - p. 1
Random quote: I took a deep breath. "I thought he died." Tears welled in her eyes. Uh-oh. - p. 56
I received an Advance Reader Copy through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers.