Back Before Dark

376p. (Code of Silence Series). Zonderkidz. 2013. Tr $14.99. ISBN 978-0-310-73499-4. ebook available.
Gr 7–10—A group of four friends-Cooper, Gordy, Hiro, and Lunk-is quickly reduced to three when Gordy is kidnapped from a park, even as Cooper and Hiro attempt to save him. Cooper is consumed with guilt over his inability to catch up with the kidnapper's van and the boys take the rescue efforts into their own hands. Feeling that the police are not exploring the most obvious options, Cooper starts investigating local sex offenders whom Hiro located in public records. Lunk supports Cooper's plans, including those that break the law. Equally devoted but more cautious, Hiro challenges Cooper's ideas in an effort to save him from dangerous behavior. Cooper wavers between anger and sadness while holding out hope that Gordy is still alive, despite the town's plans to hold a memorial service for him. The story reaches a climax when Cooper hatches a secret rescue plan that could get him killed. Though references to Code of Silence (Zondervan, 2012) are made, readers do not need knowledge of it to enjoy this nail-biting mystery. The plot is interesting though too drawn out to recommend to reluctant readers. The characters are believable; the dialogue rings true; and the messages about safety, family, and friendship are relevant without being heavy-handed.—Lynn Rashid, Marriotts Ridge High School, Marriottsville, MD

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