A. J. Butcher






Fifth in the Spy High Series
Atom Books/Penguin, 2003
Reviewed by Sally Roddom

Young Adult Thriller

From the outside, Deveraux College looks like any other American College, but it is not your run of the mill school. If an outsider looks carefully he would see that the students milling around, and playing sport, are in fact holograms. The real students are underground, in fact several storeys underground, learning how to be spies. Along with maths, English and science, these kids learn spycraft skills such as surveillance, underwater espionage and shadowing techniques. There is an added pressure to pass their exams; failure means a total mind-wipe and expulsion. The students are all divided into teams of six and they compete among each other in both real, and holographic, scenarios to save the world from evil. The heroes of this series of books are The Bond Team: Ben, Eddie, Jake, Lori, Cally and Bex. Ben is the team leader of the group.

Ben is having problems, though; his grades have hit an all time low, which in itself is devastating for someone whose whole reason for living is to be the best. On top of this, his girlfriend Lori dumps him and starts going out Ben’s arch rival for leadership, Jake.  Ben is now desperate for a chance to prove himself in a real mission. When the Bond team does become embroiled in the investigation of a sinister cult, through the murder of Cally’s mentor, Ben finds himself torn. This time the suspects aren’t just random terrorists, or crazed megalomaniacs, they include members of Ben’s own family.

THE SOUL CATCHER is a novel for young adults. Having three girls and three boys on the Bond Team makes it inevitable that lots of the story lines are going to be about relationships, and the jostling for top dog position between the boys. All these story lines impact on the investigations. THE SOUL CATCHER can be read as a standalone to the rest of the series, because little bits of the past are explained when needed. If you are getting your teen to read the series, I would recommend them to start at book one.  The storyline in this book is about cults and how inexperienced young people can easily be sucked in so, there is this hidden moral in the story that is not rammed down your throat. The characters are very real, their reactions to life very teenagerish.  If you’ve ever had anything to do with a teen, you will find yourself smiling in recognition.  I also had my 15 year old nephew read the book, and his comments were “Cool – can I keep this?” So that is high praise indeed.

First Published on Murder and Mayhem, Feb 2004
Revised Version Dec 2005


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