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Accomplished Author Penny Warner has three juvenile mystery books in a new series under her belt, The Code Busters Club: The Haunted Lighthouse  is the latest. Each book deals with codes, and breaking them. I am terrible at those types of things, but Ms. Warner creates such intrigue, even I believe I could untangle a word or two! I became acquainted with Penny Warner when as a mystery bookseller I came across her  unique protagonist, Connor Westphal, a deaf reporter. The first book in the series won a Macavity Award. This multi talented lady also writes a party planning mystery series with  lovely amateur detective  Presley Parker. I love the first book’s title, How To Host a Killer Party. What warped mind sets a wedding on Alcatraz? Penny does!  I don’t want to leave out  Haunted Caves: A Troop 13 Mystery which won the coveted Agatha Award from Malice Domestic for Best Children/Young Adult Fiction in 2001, and to ice the cake, grabbed the other most desired fan award, The Anthony, bestowed at the Bouchercon convention the same year. It doesn’t end there–she’s written over 50 books, for both adults and children, and been translated into two many different languages to list. Her bestselling non fiction titles include: Healthy Snacks for KidsKids’ Party Games and ActivitiesBest Party BookGames People PlayKids’ Holiday FunLearn to Sign the Fun WayBaby Play and LearnKids Pick-A-Party, and Kids’ Party Cookbook. And, for all of us fans, The Official Nancy Drew Handbook, which was also nominated for an Agatha. Whew! I’m exhausted just reading the titles, I can’t imagine having written them all, plus make TV appearances on various networks such as HGTV. To make me feel even lazier, she teaches Child Development at local college. And has done so for—20 years! That’s just too much talent for one person to possess.

I wanted to know more about her latest venture, the Code Buster books, and Penny gave me a nice look at what the series is all about.

“THE CODE BUSTERS CLUB: SECRET OF THE SKELETON KEY, is the first in the series, and debuted last year. It’s now out in paperback, and book #2, THE CODE BUSTERS CLUB: THE HAUNTED LIGHTHOUSE, was just published.

As a college teacher of child development (and former kid) I know how much kids love codes during the ages 8 to 12. I used to send coded messages to my friends, talk in Pig Latin, learned Sign Language, and thought a book full of codes would be fun (and educational) for kids. The books offer codes in every chapter, so readers have to solve the puzzles as they read the mystery (answer are in the back if they get stuck!)
The first book features four Code Busters – two ethnically diverse girls and boys – who stumbled on a mystery at the creepy house across the street – Skeleton Man’s house. The message he draws on his window leads the kids to a hidden treasure and more secrets to reveal.  The second book starts on Alcatraz where a former prisoner left clues to stolen diamonds. The kids crack the codes left by the inmate, leading to a secret tunnel in an old haunted hotel.
I just finished book 3 – THE HIDDEN TREASURE OF PIRATE BOUCHARD – featuring California’s only pirate and set in Monterey. The Code Busters follow an old treasure map that leads to a surprising treasure at the Carmel Mission.
I’ve been doing a lot of school visits where I present code-busting events for 4th and 5th graders. That’s been a lot of fun! The kids are so smart and so engaged in cracking codes. I have a feeling they’ll all work for the CIA as cryptographers some day!”
I’m intrigued, and well past the age of 12! I told Penny that I wish books like these had been around when I was reading my Nancy Drews and Judy Boltons. As much as I loved them, it would have been nice to attempt some real detecting through busting codes. As long as math wasn’t involved. If math’s involved, I’d be lucky to find the door.

Diane Plumley

Diane Plumley

Diane Plumley

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