Charlotte MacLeod’s Sarah Kelling/ Max Bittersohn series concludes in The Balloon Man by coming full circle from the first book, The Family Vault, in which Sarah Kelling meets art detective Max Bittersohn as she learns that her despotic mother-in-law has murdered several people and sold the family’s priceless ruby jewelry collection to appease her lover.
The book opens with the wedding of Max’s nephew, which gets crashed, quite literally, when a hot air balloon lands on the tent. The brother and sister in the balloon come from the that has owns the derelict neighboring property and have come to move back to their family’s home. This is not the only strange thing to happen that day, as Max discovers the Kelling ruby jewelry among the wedding gifts. Add inn an industrial-grade smoke bomb that completely blinds everyone, the discovery of the body of a murdered man under the flattened tent, the theft of Uncle Jem’s car, and the kidnapping of Max, and you get a book high in adventure. There is still plenty of mystery, such as the identities of the victim and his killer and who is behind Max’s kidnapping, but this book thrives especially on adventure.
The Balloon Man concludes this series nicely, bringing us back together with most of the characters we have come to know and love while also wrapping up the question of what ever happened to the precious rubies stolen by Sarah’s first mother-in-law.
Andi Arndt provides the narration of the audio version of this book. She does so well, not falling into the trap of over dramatizing the details that already contain lots of drama. By keeping to an even balance in her tone, she lets the text speak for itself. Since the story gets a little wild at times, a different narrator could easily turn the book into melodrama.
In most ways, I highly love this book. I loved getting to spend more time with the members of one of my favorite kooky families, especially given that the previous book, The Odd Job, omits almost all but Sarah, and I would have been disappointed not to be given one last visit with the Kellings and Bittersohns. MacLeod’s choice to set this against the backdrop of Mike’s wedding shows start of a new life for him, worked well. Because the book departs from its norm in being an adventure novel with more intensity than most books, I will not award it five stars, as I feel that the 12th and last book in a series ought to remain at least somewhat consistent in its style, but I wholeheartedly endorse The Balloon Man with four stars!
The Balloon Man is available now in multiple formats. To order from Amazon, click here. You may also find it in your local library or bookstore.