Twelve-year-old Lincoln Baker is a creative and impulsive prankster. But when his latest stunt leaves him expelled from school and his parents facing a million-dollar lawsuit, Linc realizes he’s probably gone too far. Then two government agents appear at his doorstep and make him an offer he can’t refuse: complete a quick, covert mission and all his troubles will be erased. Everyone has a “twin” someplace in this world, and Linc’s twin is teen super-spy Benjamin Green. And Benjamin Green is missing. Disappeared. Off-the-grid.
Double Vision, the first book in a trilogy by F.T. Bradley, sends Linc to Paris for a quick meeting with nefarious characters. These bad guys have kidnapped a Frenchman who knows the location of a secret stash of Leonardo da Vinci paintings. Among those paintings is the “evil Mona Lisa,” a painting that incites violence among those who see it. (Naturally, this painting has been stored in a secret location for the last 500 years.) The bad guys want to sell the lost da Vincis and use the evil Mona Lisa to rule the world.
Linc’s task is simple – impersonate Benjamin Green at a meeting with the bad guys. But of course, nothing goes as planned and Linc finds himself involved in international espionage. Accompanied by the daughter of the kidnapped man, Linc tries to stay one step ahead of the bad guys and Green himself, who has reappeared with his own motives.
Great concept. Mediocre execution. Pandora, the government spy agency seems disorganized and inept. When Linc’s first mission falls apart, Pandora wants to send him back home to save money (huh?) The clues left by the kidnapped man require a lot of luck to find and follow. The “evil Mona Lisa” concept is mentioned once or twice, but never developed. More than once, the bad guys have the chance to kill Linc, but they just don’t. And despite the physical similarities, almost nobody believes that Linc is Benjamin Green.
Probably the most disappointing aspect of the book for me is the character of teen spy Benjamin Green. He is pompous and boorish. No one in the book likes him, and I can’t imagine readers liking him either. A partnership between the disciplined Benjamin and the impulsive Linc – with each character complimenting and learning from the other – would make this an entertaining “buddy” story. Instead, Benjamin comes off just a little more likeable than the villains, refusing to even acknowledge Linc. As a reader, I kept waiting for Benjamin to wink at Linc, letting him know it’s all just part of the superspy act. But he doesn’t, and it’s not.
The tween spy novel genre is probably tremendously difficult to write, and I applaud Bradley for her efforts. Part of the challenge would be to create dangerous situations without moving the tone of the book into young-adult territory. Double Vision certainly creates these situations for Lincoln Baker. But the haphazard plot, undeveloped elements, and dearth of likeable characters makes this book ultimately unsatisfying.