Bookmonger: Adventure for Intermediate Readers | Arts
It is only a coincidence that “Ghosts of the Hindu Kush”, the latest episode of Joe O’Neill’s “Red Hand Adventures”, a series for intermediate readers, begins in the very part of the world on which many are concentrating now.
The series follows three young adventurers, Tariq, Fez and Aseem. Since meeting in Tangier, Morocco in 1912, the three have dealt with pirates, thieves and despots in the course of four books. “Rebels of the Kasbah” was the first volume, followed by “Wrath of the Caid”, “Legends of the Rif” and “Thieves of the Black Sea”.
Now, “Ghosts of the Hindu Kush” picks up the story, as the three friends arrive after sailing the Black Sea to the port of Rostov-on-Don, a Russian trading post, where the three are met by a dangerous group of characters. Previous adventures have given these friends plenty of practice in dealing with these kinds of threats, but even more peril awaits them.
According to the Red Hand’s prophecy, the trio are tasked with delivering an ancient diary to India, and shifting markings on a mysterious map point them on a route through the Hindu Kush region, known both for its difficult terrain and treacherous inhabitants.
And the journey of the three friends is not the only adventure in this tale. Other strands of the story involve additional characters introduced in earlier books. Margaret, a British girl once held captive in Morocco with the three friends, has since been released and is now on undercover missions during World War I with her British officer father.
Inez, a Frenchwoman, is now a frontline nurse. To her surprise, she discovers that one of the POWs she is caring for is Reinhold, a German boy who once provided her with shelter years earlier. Moreover, being the source of many of the difficulties these young people face, the antagonist Razikov yearns for global anarchy and will stop little to achieve his goal.
O’Neill, the book’s author and a Hood River businessman, goes beyond heroic adventure to offer readers lessons in cross-cultural history, literature, and ethics.
Ensuring that his idealistic young characters are faced with moral dilemmas as well as physical danger, the author conveys to his readers the complex motivations behind decision-making, as well as the potential long-term consequences of actions taken. The best way to dive into O’Neill’s formidable series is to start with the first book and read each one sequentially, ending with this most recent addition.
The bookseller is Barbara Lloyd McMichael, who writes this weekly column focusing on Pacific Northwest books, authors and publishers. Contact her at [email protected]