About the Author

Kevin Sylvester

Kevin Sylvester is an award-winning writer, illustrator and broadcaster. His book Gold Medal for Weird won the Silver Birch Award for non-fiction in 2009. It was also named a Junior Library Guild Premier selection in 2008 and was a finalist for the Willow Award. His previous book Sports Hall of Weird was a Silver Birch Honour Book in 2006. It was also a finalist for the Rocky Mountain Book Award. Sylvester’s book for adults, Shadrin has Scored for Russia was nominated for the Leacock Award for Humour in 2002. His illustrations have been seen in The Toronto Star, the Literary Review of Canada and on cbc.ca. Kevin is often heard on CBC Radio. He was the sportscaster for CBC morning shows for 9 years. He is a regular fill-in on the shows The Sunday Edition, Here and Now, Metro Morning, Ideas and Tapestry. He and Teddy Katz won the B’nai B’rith Human Rights Award for their documentary on racism in hockey, Black Ice. Neil Flambé and the Case of the Caustic Cumin was first broadcast as a radio drama serial in the summer of 2007. It was the foundation for the first book in the series—Neil Flambé and the Marco Polo Murders. Book Two in the series is Neil Flambé and the Aztec Abduction.

Books by this Author
Baseballogy

Baseballogy

Supercool Facts You Never Knew
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback Hardcover
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Basketballogy

Basketballogy

Supercool Facts You Never Knew
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback Hardcover
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Find Your Hero Chapter Sampler

Find Your Hero Chapter Sampler

Excerpts from six of our stellar 2015 hero-themed middle-grade titles!
edition:eBook
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Follow Your Money

Follow Your Money

Who Gets It, Who Spends It, Where Does It Go?
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback eBook
tagged : money
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Follow Your Stuff

Follow Your Stuff

Who Makes It, Where Does It Come From, How Does It Get to You?
edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover
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Game Day

Game Day

Meet the People Who Make It Happen
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback eBook
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Gargantua (Jr!)

Gargantua (Jr!)

Defender of Earth
edition:eBook
also available: Hardcover
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Showtime

Showtime

Meet the People Behind the Scenes
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback Hardcover
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Great

Great

edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover
tagged : hockey
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Neil Flambé and the Bard's Banquet
Excerpt

Neil Flambé and the Bard’s Banquet CHAPTER ONE TWO BEES OR NOT TWO BEES

Neil Flambé’s head hurt.

Of course, he’d just been hitting it with a frying pan, so that made sense.

What didn’t make sense—to Neil, anyway—was the antique jar of honey that sat on the kitchen counter, facing Neil with a suspicious attitude.

Lord Lane of Liverpool had uncovered a case of the honey during a recent building demolition—or, more precisely, his workers had—and he was asking fifteen-year-old super-chef Neil Flambé to cook him a meal using the ingredient.

The problem wasn’t the honey. Neil could have cooked an amazing meal with the jar itself, if that’s what Lane had wanted. The problem was the scroll of paper suspended inside the jar.

When the case of honey had arrived, Neil’s cousin Larry had held one jar up to the light to get a closer look inside. The sunlight had revealed a note that said, or seemed to say, help. A cry for help, even from the distant past, was the last thing Neil wanted to hear after months of globe-trotting battles and mystery solving.

“Are you done banging your head?” Larry asked, smiling and walking over to Neil. “A little dramatic, even for you.”

Neil moaned. “I want to be a chef, not a private eye.”

“Private nose.”

“Whatever! The point is that I just want to run my restaurant.”

“And do your homework on time.”

“And do my—wait, no, just run the restaurant, in peace for a change. That would be nice!” Neil bellowed, lifting himself off his chair. The movement made his head throb again. He sat down and rubbed his temples and moaned some more. “I’m done with solving crimes. Tell Lord Lane he can have his honey back and can find someone else to cook him dinner.”

“Chill, cuz! I only said that the note looks like it spells ‘help,’?” Larry said. “There’s a whole roll of paper in there. Maybe it says ‘help is on the way’ or ‘honey will help cure your gout’ or something like that.”


“I don’t care,” Neil said. “Dinner is off.”

“Have I mentioned that Lane is practically royalty?”

Neil actually snorted. “Royalty? Look at what Japanese royalty almost did to us!” The Flambés had just returned from a scary few weeks in Tokyo that had almost killed them in a number of different ways. For a while, Neil had been sure Larry had been killed.

“Did I mention that he’s rich? You could buy some nice new frying pans to hit your head with!”

Neil hesitated for a moment, then shook his head. “Nope, I still don’t care.”

“And did I mention that I already accepted the down payment for the dinner?”

“What?” Neil said, straightening up. “You didn’t ask me first?”

Larry grinned sheepishly. “It was sort of a last-minute kind of thing. He’s already in town for some play or something. And I thought you’d be intrigued. He could have asked any chef, but he chose you. He clearly wanted the best. That’s you, isn’t it?”

Neil had to admit this was true. His ego started to wake up, fighting with the pain and exhaustion and beating them both into submission. Neil stole a glance at the jars of honey. The honey glowed like gold in the sunlight.

“All right, look,” Neil said finally, standing up and wagging his finger at Larry. “I’ll cook this meal, but we don’t use that jar of honey. It stays closed. Deal?”

“Deal,” Larry said. “We just hand it to him after dinner and then forget it ever passed through our kitchen.”

“Right,” Neil said. “And if Lord Lane wants to know why some long-dead Victorian guy needed help, then he can find out himself.”

“Deal times two,” Larry said.

Even Neil suspected this wasn’t going to be the end of the story, but he stashed that suspicion in the back of his much-better-all-of-a-sudden head and started to actually think about planning his glorious meal.

“Okay, honey is an amazing ingredient in any number of dishes.” Neil walked over to the counter and examined the unopened jars. They were made out of glass, with each top sealed with a ceramic lid coated with a thick layer of beeswax.

“Let’s see how this all tastes, and then I’ll make Lane’s taste buds implode.”

Larry rolled his eyes. He carefully took the jar containing the note and placed it on a high shelf. “Stay,” he said, pointing angrily at the jar.

Neil took a knife and carefully began prying the top off one of the remaining jars.

“Honey can last for centuries without going bad,” Neil said, “as long as it’s properly sealed.”


He carefully cut a slit around the lip of the jar and then gingerly maneuvered the blade between the lid and the glass. He needed to be very careful. Old glass was fragile, and he didn’t want to be stuck figuring out what was a crystallized bit of golden honey and what was a shard of glass.

He cracked the seal. The pungent aroma of honey swelled his senses.

“Wonderful.” Neil smiled. He took a deeper sniff. “And weird.” He sniffed the honey again. It smelled, there was no other word for it, pure. He could detect the powerful aromas of numerous flowers, and just the faintest trace of smokiness. “Definitely weird.”

“What’s weird?” Larry asked.

“Well, from what I know about Victorian London, it was a pretty dirty place. There were lots of factories and stuff, burning a lot of coal. I should smell that in this honey.”

Larry gave a gasp of astonishment. “You have been doing your homework!”

“Well, actually, I have b—” Neil was just about to accept this pat on the back, when he was interrupted by a derisive laugh from the kitchen door.

Isabella Tortellini made her way into the kitchen. Her left arm was still in a sling, a result of a bullet wound she’d suffered in Japan. Neil noticed that even her sling seemed to be made of some exotic and wonderful fabric.

“Ah, speaking of honey, here’s your very own sweetie!” Larry said with a chuckle. “And so stylish! You should get shot more often.”

“Sei un buffone! You are such a clown,” Isabella said.

Neil felt his face redden, a little with embarrassment but more with pleasure. Isabella was definitely his “sweetie” (just as Larry was definitely a clown).

Larry smiled. “I believe you were about to suggest that our young chef is lying about doing his homework?”

“Homework?” She raised an eyebrow and looked at Neil, who squirmed.

“Actually, Isabella was telling me about the origins of modern perfume making the other day. For a book report . . .”

Isabella glared harder.


“Okay, an overdue history assignment on the Industrial Revolution.”

“Exactly!” Isabella smiled. “See, the truth is always meglio, better.”

Neil continued. “Perfumes helped the rich and not-so-rich cover up the smells of city living and coal dust. It was kind of ironic that the factories allowed them to make enough to satisfy demand, while also making the smells that needed covering.”

“Ironic, or smart business?” Larry said. “I always say, never trust a perfume maker. Ouch!”

Isabella had very deftly used her one good arm to grab and twist a tea towel and whack Larry on the rear end with the tip.


“I am sweet like honey, but I also sting like un’ape, a bee,” she said, touching her forehead with her finger. “Remember that.”

“More like a vespa!” Larry said, sidling a step away.

“Sì, more like a wasp,” she said, smiling. “My arm is almost healed, then watch out! See, I do not need a bodyguard all the time!”

“Speaking of which, where is the human tank?” Larry asked. Jones, Isabella’s friend and bodyguard, was usually hovering close by.

“He is in the car. We are leaving for France tonight for a very big perfume convention. I will return very rich.”

“Well, at least I’ll know one teenager who’s successful!” Larry expertly ducked the spatula Neil flung at him.

“Anyway, Neil, you were explaining about il miele, the honey?” Isabella said, gliding over and giving Neil a kiss on the cheek.

Neil smiled dumbly for a second, then continued. “Well, I’d expect that this honey would smell way more, I don’t know, dirty or sooty.”

Larry laughed. “And you say you don’t like mysteries!”

Neil put the honey down abruptly. “I don’t. This is about cooking. Flavor undertones, hidden things like smoke or soot, can affect the type of dishes I can cook with honey. This honey doesn’t have any of those. It’s incredibly pure.”

“So. What do you have planned?” Isabella said, leaning closer to him. She loved watching Neil work.

Neil felt a thrill as he stared into her chocolate-colored eyes. “Um, uh . . . well, there are a few standard things. Lane is British, which means he’ll probably love meats, pastries. I’m looking at some simple recipes and fresh ingredients.”

Neil’s mind was racing now as he began to construct combinations of flavor and texture out of thin air. His hands flew around as he mixed the imaginary ingredients.

“I’ll start with an appetizer that plays on the idea of crumpets, with honey-glazed cakes. It’s more of a baklava but with an infusion of Earl Grey tea. Not too sweet, just sweet enough to set the tone for the evening.”

“British with a twist,” Larry said.

“That sounds fantastico.” Isabella smiled.

Neil raced on. “Main course? Honey-glazed ham, but deconstructed as a kind of almost bacon-flavored meat pie—or! Or maybe as a kind of charcuterie plate!” Neil was speaking more quickly with each possibility. “Then dessert will be a selection of cheeses, but with honey-baked toasts, some honey ice cream, and then a honey trifle.”


Larry jumped to his feet and clapped his hands. “And you didn’t once mention fish! What are we waiting for? Let’s start prepping!”

Isabella landed a quick kiss full on Neil’s lips. “Wonderful,” she whispered.

Neil’s headache was now completely forgotten.

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Neil Flambé and the Duel in the Desert
Excerpt

Neil Flambé and the Duel in the Desert CHAPTER ONE BORDER CROSS
Neil could see the look of shock on the border guard’s face before they reached the inspection booth.

“This is not going to go well,” Neil muttered. Larry slammed on the brakes, which let out an earsplitting squeal with a side order of blue smoke and a soupçon of burning rubber. Neil’s head whipped forward, then snapped back.

“On the contrary, it’s going AWESOME!” Larry said.

Neil caught a glimpse of the guard through Larry’s window. She had her eyes closed and her hands clapped tightly over her ears. She was frowning.

Larry turned off the ignition, let out a giant “WHOOP!” and began playing an imaginary drum solo on the steering wheel.

The guard coughed and waved the smoke away. She leaned out of her kiosk, taking in the length and height of the strange vehicle that had just appeared in front of her.

She gave her head a bewildered shake.

Larry smiled and winked at Neil. “I think she’s impressed with the FrankenWagon.”

“Ugh.”


The FrankenWagon was the new Flambé food truck, and Neil hated it. It was a hybrid in the same way chicken-chocolate ice cream is a hybrid. It was welded together from an old Volkswagen van at the front and a silver Airstream trailer at the back. There was a visible welding line that ran around the entire cab, like a scar, and Neil was sure it was going to split apart every time they turned a corner.

The guard narrowed her eyes and growled.

“I don’t think ‘impressed’ is the right word,” Neil said, secretly wishing that border guards had their kiosks on the passenger side.

“Open the window!” the woman bellowed.

Larry smiled and pointed his finger in the air in the universal sign for wait a second.

“NOW!”

Larry nodded. Neil watched as Larry used an electric mixer to quickly roll down the window. He’d had to lean down to plug the mixer into the makeshift socket he’d installed in the dashboard, and it looked very suspicious, Neil realized, like maybe Larry was hiding something quickly at his feet.

The window lowered slowly, slowly, and Neil was sure he saw the guard reach for her weapon.

“Where are your hands?” the guard demanded.

Larry raised them, still holding the mixer.


“Pretty sweet, eh?” he said. “I made that myself after the original handle broke off.”

She frowned. A bead of sweat ran down Neil’s forehead.

“Passports,” said the guard.

Larry leaned on the door frame. “No worries. My cousin will just fetch them from yonder glove compartment. Speaking of fetching . . . may I get a name to put to the lovely face and oh-so-fetching uniform?”

The guard stayed stone-faced. Neil had seen Larry’s charm work on all sorts of people, but the border guard seemed immune.

Neil grabbed the passports and leaned past Larry to hand them to the woman.


She snatched them from his hands.

“Dolores?” Larry asked.

She ignored him and stared at the passport photos.

“Petunia?”

“Where are you heading?” she said, gliding the passports under some kind of scanner. Larry’s passport set off a series of beeps, and the guard’s eyes grew wide as she gazed at her computer screen.

“That depends, Marilyn?”

“Depends?”

“Arizona!” Neil yelled, squeezing his head through Larry’s window. “We’re heading down to Arizona for a couple of weeks for a food convention.”

“The Broiling Man Festival. Heard of it?” Larry said, smiling.

“In this?” She snorted, her professional demeanor momentarily broken by disbelief. “Good luck.”

“So we’re clear to go?” Larry said.

She went back to staring at her beeping computer screen.

Neil wanted to slide down his seat and disappear through the floor of the FrankenWagon. Something, he thought sadly, that was probably all too possible. Larry had already warned him against moving the foot carpets.

The interrogation continued.

The guard asked if the FrankenWagon was legal. Larry responded with a thumbs-up. “Legal and awesome!” Neil banged his forehead on the dashboard.

“Can you prove it?” she said.

“You want to take it for a spin?”

She growled.

Neil quickly grabbed the permits and registration for the vehicle from the glove compartment and lunged past Larry, who was still trying to make googly eyes at the guard.

She asked if they had a visa to work in the States, since this was “allegedly a food truck.”

“Is it really work when cooking is your passion?” Larry said, leaning his head further out the window.

Neil scrambled to pass over the official invitation to the festival.

All this time, the computer continued to beep.

Larry began to sing the song “Home on the Range” to the beat, doing strange robot motions with his arms.

“I know,” Larry said, his arms rotating. “I’ll call you DoloroLynPetunia.”


DoloroLynPetunia had had enough. She handed them back the passports and ordered them to go to a large building to their left.

“Did we win something?” Larry asked.

Neil smacked his face into his palm.

DoloroLynPetunia pointed with more force.


“Is that where we claim the prize?” Larry beamed, turning the key and firing up the FrankenWagon.

DoloroLynPetunia responded with one more emphatic point of her finger toward the building. “Secondary inspection. Now.”

Neil foresaw doom.

If they were lucky, they’d only be trapped at the border for a few hours.

If they were unlucky, they’d be sent packing back home and told not to come back, possibly forever.

Neil lowered his head into his hands and moaned.

“Oh, give me a home where the cantaloupes roam!” Larry sang as he happily steered the truck toward the secondary inspection building.

Maybe if Neil could talk to the officer first, if he could explain that Larry was odd, but safe. He put his hand on the door handle and prepared to leap out as soon as they parked.

A large man pointed to a parking space in front of the building and then held up his hand in a stop sign as Larry flew into the spot.

Neil was out in a flash and ran to the front of the truck first. He realized immediately that rushing a border officer, even with the best of intentions, was not a good idea.

The officer reached for his gun and yelled, “HALT!”

Neil screeched to a stop. The officer looked Neil up and down and frowned.

“It’s a bit early for Halloween, isn’t it?” he said.

Neil was wearing his chef’s outfit. It had been the only clean thing in his room when they’d left that morning.

Neil heard a click as Larry opened his door and stepped out. Neil winced.

A flippered foot gingerly felt for the ground.

The guard’s eyes grew wide.

Something resembling a shaggy blond dog had stepped out of the driver’s-side door. It was wearing scuba gear.


The guard glanced back and forth from the redhead in the chef outfit to the goofball in scuba gear and controlled his jaw muscles enough to utter one word.

“Strip.”

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The Neil Flambé Capers Collection

The Neil Flambé Capers Collection

Neil Flambé and the Marco Polo Murders; Neil Flambé and the Aztec Abduction; Neil Flambé and the Crusader's Curse; Neil Flambé and the Tokyo Treasure
illustrated by Kevin Sylvester
edition:Paperback
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