Monday, April 7, 2014

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Neil Flambé and the Tokyo Treasure

Today I have another one of the nominees for the 2014 Silver Birch Fiction Award from the Ontario Library Association. This is the fourth book in the Neil Flambé series, and I’ve read all of others, after being introduced them through Silver Birch. [My thoughts on Neil Flambé and the Crusader’s Curse and 

Today’s Pick: Neil Flambé and the Tokyo Treasure

by Kevin Sylvester

Simon and Schuster, 2012

From the publisher:

Something smells fishy—and it’s not the sushi—in this addition to the culinary mystery series celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey calls “good fun.”

World-class chef Neil Flambé isn’t thrilled when his cousin Larry moves to Japan to work on an online manga comic book. Now who’ll help him in the kitchen? But he finds a replacement in Gary the bike courier, and life, and the restaurant, moves on without Larry. That is, until the news that life may have really left Larry behind—he’s been lost at sea.

Neil is devastated. But then he checks Larry’s online manga. There’s a subtle change in the plot, something Neil and Larry had discussed—something only Neil would notice. Is this a cryptic message from beyond the grave—or is Larry still alive? Determined to find out, Neil heads to Japan to solve his next mystery.

My Take:

This story is full of the over-the-top adventure that I’ve come to expect in the Neil Flambé series. I always have fun reading about Neil’s cooking exploits and his attempts to save someone he cares about from danger—in this case, his cousin Larry. I like the way Neil’s keen sense of smell always leads him to a key clue in solving the mystery.

As a writer, I admired how the author creates such a great sense of fun and humor in his stories. It's a good one to read if you are struggling with how to include the sense of smell in your writing.

 Opening Line:

“Neil Flambé leaned back in his chair and watched the final panel of The Chef fade to black on the laptop screen.”


“Twenty minutes later, after changing trains successfully, Neil poured out with the crowd at Shibuya Station like steam from a soufflé.”

“He and Kong were going to cook toxic mushrooms and they’d have to decide whether to poison everyone, themselves, or just one judge.”

Other Info:
Kevin Sylvester is a writer, news broadcaster and cartoonist based in Toronto, Canada.

The character of Neil Flambé was originally part of a radio serial Neil Flambé and the Case of the Caustic Cumin

In a recent video interview at the Ontario Library Association Superconference, Kevin Sylvester talked about his books: “I try to entertain…but hidden in that is valuable information on world history and exploration.”

Other Books by this author:

Neil Flambé and the Tokyo Treasure
Neil Flambé and the Aztec Abduction
Neil Flambé and the Marco Polo Murders
Game Day
Don’t Touch That Toad
Gold Medal for Weird 
Sports Hall of Weird

 For more, go to the Neil Flambe website or visit Kevin Sylvester’s blog.

You can find more Marvelous Middle Grade Monday books by checking out Shannon Messenger’s blog! Shannon is the founder of Marvelous Middle Grade Monday and the author of the middle grade novels, Keeper of the Lost Cities and Exile (Keeper of the Lost Cities #2).


  1. I hadn't heard of this series, but it sounds like fun! I like how you pointed out that it's a study in using the sense of smell. I know that's my weakest link when it comes to the senses.

    1. I often have to go back to add in smell references, Michelle.

  2. I hadn't heard of these and am now wondering what rock I've been living under! lol They sound just up my alley...or should that be, like exactly my kind of pizza topping?

    Definitely going to track them down--thanks so much for the recommend!


    1. These books are definitely a lot of fun and kids seem to really enjoy them.

  3. I remember hearing about an earlier volume in this series, probably from you. :) Love when the similes arise organically from the character's frame of reference ("like steam from a souffle"). That's good writing!

    1. So true! You can get so involved in the story when the character has a consistent perspective on the world.


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