Twins Johnny and Will and their friend Rad are back for more adventures in the third installment of Allen Johnson Jr.’s Blackwater Novels, set in 1940s Alabama and Georgia. When Linc, the African-American man who became a hero to the boys in previous books, helps foil a developer’s search for oil in the local swamp, the frustrated oil man sends the Ku Klux Klan to terrify Linc and his supporters. Now it’s up to the local sheriff—with the help of the boys—to come up with a clever way to show the Klan they aren’t welcome in tolerant Blackwater County. In between run-ins with the KKK, the boys help catch a team of burglars, cause mischief at school, camp out on their favorite island and enjoy fishing, reading comics and playing catch with their beloved dogs.
Allen Johnson Jr, grandson of the founder of Coca-Cola Bottling Company United, writes in a voice that’s authentic to his own boyhood experiences in the deep South. Linc and other African-American characters speak in strong dialect, and villains frequently invoke the n-word, while Sheriff Clyde actively condemns its use. Descriptions of long-distance train rides, Southern cooking and popular radio shows of the time round out this tale. Kids whose fathers and grandfathers read Tom Swift and the Hardy Boys will find much familiar territory in this new generation of stories.
Jill Ratzan reviews for School Library Journal and works as a school librarian at a small independent school in New Jersey.