Double Vision: Code Name 711 by F.T. Bradley is the second book in the Double Vision kid espionage mystery series (available October 15, 2013).
Lincoln Baker is just trying to live life. He’s hanging out with his best friends, avoiding studying for his history test, and generally minding his own business when his life is interrupted—again—by the secret government agency Pandora. A threat has been made on the president’s life by an agent named Dagger, so Pandora needs Linc to step in to guard the first daughter as the double for Linc's lookalike (and sworn nemesis), Junior Agent Ben Green.
Despite his protests, Linc is hauled off to Washington D.C. in the guise of a participant in the Junior President’s Club. Once he arrives, he gets the tour of the White House, meets the president, and is given his mission. The Pandora agents must find two things: the would-be assassin and a coat with very special properties that was once worn by George Washington. The coat is rumored to make the wearer invincible, which means it would be a bad item to fall in the wrong hands. Linc and Ben, joined by the industrious gadget-maker Henry and the sassy first daughter Amy, must avoid other secret agents, figure out a string of historical mysteries, and infiltrate a spy ring that has been in operation since the Revolutionary War. And they have to not get dead in the process.
Double Vision: Code Name 711 is the follow-up to F.T. Bradley’s Double Vision and the second book to feature Lincoln Baker and Benjamin Green. The series has been touted as perfect for fans of the Da Vinci Code, the Alex Rider series, and the 39 Clues series—and it certainly has puzzles and action a-plenty. In the first novel, Linc tore around Paris, and this time Washington D.C. gets its due.
Washington D.C. has enough history packed within its borders to keep historians busy for their entire lives. In order to find the mythic coat of George Washington, Linc finds himself rather out of his element—seeing as how he barely cracked a book for his history test. When the coat is linked to the Culper Ring, America’s first spies, he’s not sure how the codes work. The good news is that the president’s kid, Amy, happens to be pretty good at the whole history thing, and she’s inserted herself into Linc’s mission as part-tour-guide and part-partner. Plus, she’s well connected and leads Linc to Andrea, a museum curator who can answer detailed questions.
“So who were these Culper Ring spies anyway?” I asked.
“The man who ran the operation was Benjamin Tallmadge,” Andrea said. The dim light in the tunnel cast shadows across her face. “He recruited ordinary citizens to deliver messages. We’ve identified almost all the members. And then there was George Washington, of course. He ordered the Culper Ring into existence. But the members of the ring didn’t know each other’s names—they all had numbers instead.”
“To keep them safe, right?” Amy asked. You could tell she was really into all that spy stuff.
“Tallmadge kept a code dictionary to send messages,” Andrea said. “It also identified the members of the ring. George Washington was code-named Seven-Eleven.”
Bradley manages to work in some of the cooler bits of Revolutionary War spy-work into the storyline. Linc and Amy quickly realize they’ll need the original Culper Ring code book in order to find Washington’s coat. After breaking into CIA headquarters and facing down bunches of goons in creative ways (more on that in a second), it turns out the Culper Ring is still alive and kicking and using old-fashioned signals to talk to each other. Old-fashioned signals like… laundry.
“Amy, I don’t have time for a history lesson!”
“Just gimme a minute,” Amy pulled the Culper Ring book from her coat pocket. “During the Revolutionary War, the woman spy would let the spy on the horse know in which cove to meet the guy with the boat—and she’d use the laundry on the clothesline to send the message. The code is written here.” She flipped through the book until she got to a page with drawings of laundry on it. “The petticoat tells you he’s arrived….”
“So what’s it all mean?” I asked, hoping she would focus already.
“There are two handkerchiefs—they’re just there to indicate position. And the petticoat is in the third spot, so that means the spy is in the third cove.”
If it was as simple as unscrambling clues and reading historical texts, there would be no need for Linc to step into this mission. But, as it turns out, there are quite a few bad guys tailing them and Linc is nothing if not creative in eliminating tails. At one point, he and Amy are sitting around, eating their lunch, and they discover themselves surrounded by some unsavory characters—spies dressed as German tourists, mommies with babies, and fishmongers. Linc manages to marshal his resources to his best advantage.
But then I had an idea. A tried-and-true distraction that went back to the beginning of time—and it would be even better with Henry’s invention. My idea wouldn’t be pretty and might even get me arrested, but it could work.
I opened my backpack and handed Amy a Sure Shot. “Can you follow my lead?”
I dug my hand inside the gooey, fishy mess, and I stuck a piece of crab on the Sure Shot.
I aimed. Took a breath.
And started slinging seafood.
I shot my leftovers at the German tourists (they were easy to spot with their fake mustaches and I Love DC shirts), but then just shot crab parts at everyone. Initially, there was shock, irritation, and yelling—stage one of a good food fight. You’ll know this if you’ve ever been in one.
Double Vision: Code Name 711 is a worthy follow-up to Linc’s first adventure. Bradley has managed to capture a great sense of smart-aleck into a fast paced, intriguing story for middle graders. There is a lot of action, a lot of smarts, and a lot of dodging adults.
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Jenny Maloney is a reader and writer in Colorado. Her short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in 42 Magazine, Shimmer, Skive, and others. She blogs about writing at Notes from Under Ground. If you like to talk books, reading, publishing, movies, or writing feel free to follow her on Twitter: @JennyEMaloney.