Elizabeth Honey. Remote Man. Dial, 2004. ISBN 978-0440419013 260 pp. $
Remote Man is a humorous and suspenseful mystery from award-winning Australian author. When computer geek Ned’s techno-phobe mother, a renowned tree scientist, suffers a nervous breakdown, he is first shipped off to visit cousins, then dragged along with Mum on extended vacation to America. While there, Ned and his neighbor Rocky make quick friends over observing a small family of bears, until Rocky unwittingly leads poachers posing as nature photographers to their animal friends. Furious at the death of mama bear and the disappearance of the cute cubs, then two make a quick connection between this illegal act and a dead snake the reptile fan Ned saw at his cousin’s hometown, back in Australia. Determined to stop the poaching of endangered species, the two cook up a plan–with the help of some international friends – to catch the smugglers.
Except for a few stray details, like giving Rocky from Concord MA a Texan accent at the beginning of the novel, the story flows smoothly. Emails and chat sessions complete with typos are a well-used plot device, and Ned’s character development shows how the Internet that initially served to alienate him how the power to connect as well. The ending is a bit predictable, but how they get there is fast paced adventure.
While older teens may find the whole think a little far-fetched, middle school readers should enjoy this adventurous mystery. Topical references give Remote Man special appeal to local Massachusetts readers, cool cover art will help to sell.