Nick and Tesla's Secret Agent Gadget Battle (Nick and Tesla # 3) - Where was this when I was young?!

Nick and Tesla's Secret Agent Gadget Battle: A Mystery with Spy Cameras, Code Wheels, and Other Gadgets You Can Build Yourself - Steve Hockensmith, Bob Pflugfelder

Re-read published copy May 31, 2014.


Original post 3/18/2014


Did you ever want to be a spy? Did you ever want to wear night-vision goggles? Did you ever want to dust for fingerprints or build an alarm to warn you if someone takes your things?


While you might not be able to do the first two, this book will help you capture those fingerprints and make sure your siblings can't lift your treasure without giving themselves away. Nick and Tesla's (I never get tired of saying that!) latest adventure is a funny and exciting ride I would have devoured in late elementary and middle school. I enjoyed it immensely now; the story had me laughing and intrigued all the way through. Unfortunately, I haven't read the previous two volumes in this series, but I hope to remedy that soon.


Nick and Tesla are twins whose summer has taken a strange turn after their parents drop them with their Uncle Newt, an inventor and part of the union known as M. A. D. Scientists, on their way to Uzbekistan to study soybeans. The twins have been told they work as agriculture experts for the government, but they begin to question that after a call from their mother warns them that though they were sent to Uncle Newt's for safety, they've been found out by a spy. It's up to the kids, their friends Demarco and Silas, their Uncle to discover the identity of the spy...before they're able to strike!


I was surprised and delighted by so much in this book. The characters were developed, interesting, three-dimensional as is so often used to describe good characters. Tesla in particular was one of my favorites: she's smart, funny, brave - everything I'd want to see in a girl in her situation. Her relationship with her twin is great, though of course they tease each other. Their Uncle Newt took me longer to warm up to, he seemed to all but ignore the twins. However, he is shown to listen and care in the end. Demarco and Silas were, mostly, interesting. I quite liked Demarco; though his sisters were a bit scary. Silas was...see below. Now this is a mystery, so of course we have various suspisious figures come in and muddy the waters. I won't enumerate them, that would take far too long, but each was given a chance to shine and did their job very well (or poorly as was often the case).


So how was the mystery? Quite good, particularly give how often I've found less then ideal mystery plots in children's books. The clues were there but ti was set up to confuse and throw you off the scent. I did guess half the mystery

Julie was the spy - the 'thing' in the gnome gave it away though I'd had my suspicions. Also I just noticed the cover of the book foreshadows it!

(show spoiler)

but the twist at the end

Gladys and Ethel, not to mention what their parents did - though I knew it had nothing to do with soybeans!

(show spoiler)

was surprising! I quite enjoyed it and found the sophistication a nice change from what I've been used to seeing in this genre.


The DIY gadgets were fun to read about and would be quite fun to attempt. The fingerprint powder in particular was interesting as I did a fingerprinting science fair project at this age. I bought spy gadget stuff and read books about spies and codes; I know personally the appeal of this book. This whole setup and the execution of the story makes this a must read for both boys and girls


There is one issue I had with this book. As I've not read the other books in this series, I can only base my thoughts and feelings on what I've seen in this text. Nick and Tesla's friends Silas bothers me. With all the amazing characters, even the ones introduced for this book, he is the only one who feels underdeveloped. We're told little about him but he is shown consistently as kinda clumsy, slightly overweight, and not as brilliant as the others. In short, he's the stereotypical fat, dumb friend. Later on in the story, they actually forbid him from talking so he won't mess things up. I'm not suggesting he outshine the main characters, I'm merely pointing out that I felt this character was more two-dimensional and well, kinda miss-used. I hope to see him come into his own in future books.


So what can I say about this book? I liked it; better then that, I enjoyed the mystery and the interesting characters. I can't remember a children's fiction book I've enjoyed more in ages. I plan to track down the rest of this series ASAP and find out what I've missed. The best way I can explain this book, and a reason I believe for my enjoyment of this book, is that it is basically the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew...HYPER-CHARGED!1




Published Version re-read addendum


Having read the previous volumes, I found this description of Uncle Newt absolutely perfect.


"Nick and Tesla's uncle was an inspired, ingenious, innovative inventor. Unfortunately, he was also a forgetful, dreamy, not-particularly-safety-minded one."

Also, being able to compare this book with the others in this series, I have to say this is the best yet - in my opinion. It's concise, fun, jumps right into the action and yet allows you to enter the series here as well, and the mystery is the best!


Also, the illustrations for the DIY projects are particularly easy to understand in this book.


And while Silas' characterization has largely been the same, I feel this book takes it further then the others.


All in all, I stand by my thoughts on this book; though it's nice to have a stronger basis for them.



I received this as an ARC from the publisher, thanks to a Giveaway on Booklikes.


I received a copy of this book from the publisher; the opinions for both books are my own.


1. [I got this 'quote' from Red Letter Media in their review of Star Trek 2009]