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Item - Scene of the Crime

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Series: Choose Your Own Adventure (1979-1998) — no. 137
Translated Into: Mesto prestuplenia [Место преступления] (Russian)
Author: Wilhelm, Doug
Illustrators: Dodge, Bill (cover)
La Padula, Tom (interior)
Date: 1993
Number of Endings: 11
User Summary: A new mall's being built in your town, but when you witness a suspicious meeting on the way to a friend's house, you're left to wonder if something sinister is going on.
Fireguard's Thoughts:

Really an excellent all-around CYOA. This is the first book in this series I've read in a while that I honestly couldn't put down until I'd read it several times. The premise of trying to expose shady business dealings was a nice change of pace for the series, and the writing and pathways were highly engrossing, making the book fun but not overly scary. All the same, it's also quite challenging. Achieving an ideal ending isn't easy. The good news is it manages to challenge without frustrating. Recommended.

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Jordashebasics's Thoughts:

The cover made me think this was going to be in the vein of Hijacked!, or Kidnapped!, or worse, Blood on the Handle.

But this is a charming book. It seems a bit silly at first, but the atmosphere of it, and the appropriately limited scope serve it well. By the end, I was happy with how the whole thing turned out.

Mostly, the plot is that you find that a mall is going to be built in your town, and it will destroy your favorite vacant lot / baseball field. Accidentally, you see a bribe being paid, and you decide you need to get some proof if you want to convince people that the organization behind the mall is evil (or something).

You can follow a few different paths; some of them have you working on your own, or trying to pull adults into your investigation. Others have you working with two friends.

There are a few unusually dark endings - mostly involving you dying in a drive-by shooting.

As I said, the book felt charming. It didn't get too outlandish, but it got exciting enough, and just realistic enough to feel like a legitimate teen adventure.

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KenJenningsJeopardy74's Thoughts:

Scene of the Crime could be considered the classic Choose Your Own Adventure plot. Corruption is afoot in your small town, but you, by a stroke of luck, have stumbled upon evidence that could prove what's going on. You're saddened one late summer morning when you ride by the local vacant lot and find a sign proclaiming it the future home of the Maple Grove Mall, planned to contain ninety-seven vendors. You have used the lot as a baseball field for years, and it hurts to know that personal history is set for demolition. The Grantshire, Vermont city council will vote on the proposal soon, and after their approval it's only a matter of time. Your friends Corey and Kate are excited about the mall, and you guess having a modern hangout won't be so bad. You could get used to the idea of having it replace your ball field. But then you overhear a clandestine exchange between Art Collins--a member of the city council--and an unidentified person in a black car. Their conversation implies that Collins is being bribed to vote in favor of approving the mall. Added to the recent news story about the lone opposition member of the city council disappearing, you're sure something underhanded is occurring. People deserve to know the truth about the mall, but will anyone believe you?

You have no hard evidence to back up what you witnessed, and that must change for you to be taken seriously. Andrea Sorrell, daughter of missing city council member Frank Sorrell, is in town from New York to investigate. She wouldn't have traveled all this way if she didn't have her own suspicions; maybe you should approach her with what you saw. Andrea, an attorney, doesn't take kindly to corporate bullies harassing kids, and she has an axe to grind over what Cairo Corporation may have done to her father. The company is well-connected, though, and you may find enemies to your efforts even within the Grantshire police department. You could take your story to the cops instead of Andrea, or to the Grantshire Observer, the tiny local newspaper. But you don't have evidence that Art Collins has done anything illegal, and responsible adults are sure to be hesitant about accusing a municipal leader. At least Andrea Sorrell has personal reasons to believe your claim and ask questions later.

If you're reluctant to trust any adult, you can gather your friends Corey and Kate for a secret meeting and plan a course of action. Your adversaries won't stop short of kidnapping or killing to get their way, but the three of you play well off one another's strengths. You can try to gather more evidence by following Art Collins, learning the identity of the man in the black car and tailing him, or investigating Cairo Corporation to see if they've left a paper trail. Work quickly and cautiously whatever tack you decide on; stopping the corruption will prove almost impossible once the city council votes, and your enemy will put all their resources into eliminating you if they find out what you're doing. Proving your case is difficult, but a few endings are unqualified wins, showing that government crookedness can be neutralized at a grassroots level. It just takes courage, smarts, and a generous portion of good luck on your side.

Doug Wilhelm has written good topical and historical fiction for Choose Your Own Adventure, but Scene of the Crime doesn't quite rise to that level. The corporate scam is straightforward, leaving no room for plot surprises, and I fail to see why the company is so adamant about forcing the deal to go through. Risking federal charges to remove the only dissenting vote on the council doesn't make sense to me, since they'd likely win the vote anyway. Even if the mall were not approved, is the vacant lot worth that much to them? Surely other towns would welcome a major commerce center. On the positive side, Doug Wilhem creates distinct skill sets for you, Corey, and Kate, so wise delegation of responsibilities comes into play. Scene of the Crime isn't as cogent as other Choose Your Own Adventure episodes in the same vein (R. A. Montgomery's Death in the Dorm comes to mind as a better version), but it has action and some humor, and Tom La Padula's illustrations are a plus. If you're looking for a low-key crime thriller to have a bit of fun with, this should do fine. It will at least keep you turning the pages.

More reviews by KenJenningsJeopardy74

Special Thanks:Thanks to Fireguard for the plot summary.
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BraedenL - I have 1 copy of this book and am looking to sell. If interested please send me an email. Thank you! (June 6 2023)

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