Even if you covered us both in knee pads, home team jerseys, and terrible towels, neither my mom nor I could be easily mistaken for sports fans – unless the team sport involved dance, theatre, or (most likely) food. My mom, however, never missed a sports update on Canadian Broadcasting Corp. radio when Kevin Sylvester was behind the microphone. Sylvester is a Canadian writer, cartoonist, and broadcaster with one of those grinning voices that sounds like the twinkle in someone’s eye. His good-natured sports reports always added extra background information and funny anecdotes to the stats and final scores. For Mother’s Day, I gave my mom Sylvester’s latest book, Neil Flambé and the Marco Polo Murders, and now we’re both reading what is actually a novel for kids, based on a radio play that Sylvester developed on air.
It’s the story of a teenaged “wunderchef” who, as a baby, stopped crying only when someone turned on a TV cooking show, and whose first word was “capers.” Now, at 14, he has an uncanny knack for food science, and a sense of smell as sharp as any police canine unit. He also has a habit of solving crimes. Flambé hates being thought of as “just a kid,” though being a teenaged know-it-all is what usually saves the day. This mystery stretches from 14th century Venice to Neil Flambé’s 21st century kitchen as he follows a trail of “the best chefs in town” turning up dead. Like my mom and me, many readers are probably Sylvester’s grown-up radio fans. But, as Sylvester himself insists, a surprising number of kids and teens are “addicted” to food shows, and stories about kids outsmarting adult powers-that-be are always like literary comfort food. So far, the Marco Polo murders are a light and airy recipe of foodie adventure, factual historical intrigue, and Flambé’s trademark potatoes, and the book is good reading for moms and kids of all ages!
Kate Keating is a writer and researcher whose daily commute happens in cyberspace most days (mostly because, in real time and space, she lives and works across a province instead of in a city). Kate divides her work and life between Toronto, Ottawa, and London, Ontario, Canada.