Review: The Phantom of the Fortress by Aaron M. Zook, Jr.

The Phantom of the Fortress by Aaron M. Zook, Jr.The Phantom of the Fortress (Thunder and Lightning #3)
Aaron M. Zook, Jr.
Bold Vision Books
Published November 8, 2016

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

About The Phantom of the Fortress
A psychologically disturbed Austrian, who believes he is the reincarnation of Mozart, will hold all of Salzburg, Austria under his spell unless Gabe, Alex, and Thunder and Lightning can unravel the clues, solve the mystery, and capture the master of deception. Along the way, tricks and traps become more complex as townspeople pay the price for each error made by the boys. Thunder and Lightning, along with a team of the boy’s friends, work to save the town, but a surprise twist puts the fare of Salzburg on the shoulders of Gabe. Will he crumple under the weight? Will he overcome the madman’s menace?

My Review
I liked the balance in the amount of dialogue and the way it’s used to communicate action to the reader. It made the book a much quicker read and kept scenes from getting bogged down with too many details. On the flip side, though, at times I felt like the description was a little thin. For instance, I had a hard time visualizing the actual size of the dogs and sometimes had a hard time with some of the unfamiliar settings.

You’ll want to limber up your suspension of disbelief before picking up this book. Early in the story Alex and Gabe receive permission from the police captain to work with their cousin on an open case pursuing a murderer. As the chase continues, at one point a bomb injures one boy. No one at the police department seems terribly concerned that perhaps the kids shouldn’t be exposed to this kind of danger. I found that a bit hard to believe.

The plot moves pretty quickly, with the Phantom always a step ahead. The fast-paced action kept things interesting, but I felt like I never really understood what was going on with the Phantom. What did he actually want? Money? Fame? Why was he so obsessed with Mozart? Though the setting tied the story together with facts about Mozart’s life, I didn’t feel like the Phantom himself really connected those dots. He thought he was Mozart perhaps reincarnated, but why? I also wanted him to have more of a character. I also felt like the repeated references to his “horrible birthmark” were insensitive and unkind. I get it that he’s the bad guy, but wanted a little more compassion from the good guys on that point.

Despite the farfetched plot, this story may appeal to readers who enjoy overseas settings with historical significance or tales about kid detectives.

Phantom of the Fortress on AmazonRecommended for Ages 8 to 12.

Cultural Elements
Gabe (15) and Alex (13) are Americans in Austria, where their father is stationed with the military. Their close friends, Pete and Jenna are Austrian. Gabe and Alex work with their cousin Willie, an Australian.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
None.

Romance/Sexual Content
Gabe and Jenna discuss the status of their dating relationship, which has no real physical component. Gabe feels he’s too young to get serious with a girl, but Jenna’s feelings are strong and she wants a greater commitment from him.

Spiritual Content
In a few scenes one of the boys talks with an older mentor about prayer and depending on God to help solve problems. He asks the group to pray before beginning one part of their mission.

Violent Content
Gabe and Alex find a gravely injured man. A bomb destroys a train car and injures several passengers, including children. At one point it appears both dogs have been killed, possibly by gunshots. Burning oil injures several people. A wall closes in, nearly crushing two people.

Drug Content
None.

Phantom of the Fortress on Goodreads

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About Kasey Giard

Kasey is a mother, reader and aspiring author. When she's not reading or writing, you might find her out on the water fly fishing, pretending she can keep houseplants alive, or talking with the family rescue cat.

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