Book Lounge: Neil Flambé and the Marco Polo Murders

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.

By Kevin Sylvester

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

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.

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