Title: Kensy and Max: Take Down
Author: Jacqueline Harvey
Published: 2nd March 2021
Synopsis: How do you pretend everything is fine when those that you love are in danger? If people you once trusted are now deemed a threat?
After winning the National STEM Championships, Kensy, Max and a team of students from Central London Free School are ready to compete for the international trophy in Singapore. But when Granny Cordelia is poisoned, the twins no longer feel like celebrating.
They still have a duty to their team though, and everyone seems to think they’ll be safe in a country halfway around the world. It turns out that Singapore is rife with mysteries. Soon Kensy and Max have uncovered a much larger case than anyone counted on. And this time, it’s personal.
Kensy and Max are back, and still searching for the people determined to bring down Pharos and the Grey family. But this time, they’re in Singapore on a school trip following Granny Cordelia’s poisoning with novichok – nobody knows who is behind it but those who are could pop up anywhere the intrepid spy twins go. Determined to help Pharos, their family and the Central London Free School team at the National STEM Championships, there won’t be a moment’s rest for Kensy and Max or their fellow spies-in-training at Pharos. And not even Singapore is safe…
Kensy and Max continue to thrill with great adventures around the world that take readers to a new destination in each book, and in a time when we can’t physically travel, travelling to new places – real and imagined – in books is something we can do, and that we’ve all been doing for the past couple of years as we live through the pandemic. Kensy and Max is one of those series that is filled with fun, mystery, danger and some dark moments, but they are dealt with sensitively and in ways that are easy and accessible for younger readers to understand whilst still upping the stakes in this fun and inventive series, inspired by a trip Jacqueline Harvey took to London, and saw the MI6 HQ opposite The Morpeth Arms, with a restaurant called The Spy Room – she talks about it here in a 2020 interview I did with her.
The seventh book in the series sees some of the previous cases mentioned with the new case and the ever-present thread of someone seeking to bring our heroes and their family down, and a new code for kids to have fun with. This time, Jacqueline uses the Phone Cipher – where each number has three-four letters of the alphabet on its key – so 2 = A, 222 = C, 44 = H, and 9999 = Z – so you have to use the keypad or table in the book, or a landline or older mobile to decode this one – your smart phone will be of no use. All good spies are able to use many different ciphers, and being able to understand this one will prove that as a spy, you can adapt to whatever is thrown at you, much like Kensy and Max.
The ciphers make the books fun and interactive, and in each book, a new peripheral character seems to come forward – and brings more to the story. In this one, it is Autumn, Kensy’s friend, but also, the headmaster, Magoo. The heightened presence of these two characters and their links to certain events hints at something more for the twins in the next book – and possibly leading to a conclusion for everything that has happened so far that could dramatically alter how everyone interacts and what happens to Pharos. These two plot points work well together, upping the ante and showing that in the world of Pharos and spies, nobody is truly safe – there are always threats and people seeking to destroy the spy agency.
Kensy and Max are such fantastic characters who celebrate being themselves, as well as fun, friendship, science, and all kinds of interests – nothing except trying to break the law and hurt innocent people is seen as bad, and Kensy and Max drive each story to its wonderful conclusion, dropping little clues here and there that might come up in other books. This will hopefully come to a head when we finally wrap up the series, which will be bittersweet as we will have to farewell the characters, but at the same time, we will get a nice conclusion – whenever this happens.
This latest addition to the Kensy and Max series is just as fun as the previous ones, and readers will love it. I will say that it is a series that one must read in order, as each book builds on the previous ones, and each new character may or may not be important. The character I thought would be up to no good in this one turned out to be just an annoyance for our heroes, and I definitely felt their frustration with him. I do wonder if he will reappear in the next book in some way.
This was another great book from Jacqueline Harvey, and I look forward to the next Kensy and Max book!