The Fourth Stall Part III. by Chris Rylander. February 5, 2013. Walden Pond Press. 320 pages. ISBN: 9780062120052
Mac and Vince have had a successful business since kindergarten, but after getting busted by the school principal last year, they are finished with organized crime. Retired. Out of the game. In fact, they have handed over their business to newcomer Jimmy Two-Tone, who takes care of all the business operations and gives the founders a mere cut of his profits. The only problem is, Staples is back and he needs help getting custody of his little sister, and there is a criminal mastermind at nearby Thief Valley Elementary School threatening to destroy Mac and Vince’s school. Mac knows they can’t get caught by the Suits again, or they’ll be expelled for sure, but he also knows if he doesn’t solve these last two problems, the destruction of his school will be his fault, and he won’t be the only one going down.
This conclusion to the Fourth Stall series is a strongly plot-driven story with lots of suspense and surprises. Though Mac and Vince remain the same lovable characters who root for the Cubs and crack up over the crazy things Vince’s senile grandmother says, it is what happens to them rather than the characters themselves that keep the pages turning this time around. Rylander builds suspense by raising more and more questions. Can Staples really be trusted? Who is this crime boss at the other elementary school? Is Jimmy Two-Tone treating Mac’s former clients fairly? At every moment, I was questioning the motives of one character or another and looking for the connections that would lead me to the truth. There isn’t a lot of flowery, descriptive prose in this book, but it’s well written in a different way. The story is so well plotted, I was caught by surprise every time a new twist unsurfaced.
I also loved the allusions to the movie Rookie of the Year and to Mr. Belding from Saved the Bell.
Mr. Belding is basically the prototype my imagination uses for any fictitious principal, so Mac’s suspicion that all principals get together to cast spells and sacrifice goats to him made me laugh out loud. I’m not sure the target audience is old enough to get these references, but I am roughly the same age as the author (it looks like he was born in 1983?) and these little bits of 90s nostalgia made me smile.
This third book is not quite as strong as the first two, but fans of the series will definitely want to know how it all turns out. Sticklers for realism will be pleased that not all bad behavior goes unpunished, and I think most readers will be satisfied with the ending, even if they will probably wish, as I do, that there were going to be more Fourth Stall stories.
If you’re not familiar with this series, check out my reviews of The Fourth Stall and The Fourth Stall Part II. The Fourth Stall Part III will be on shelves tomorrow, February 5, 2013.
I received an ARC of The Fourth Stall Part III from the publisher.
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