In One False Note, Gordon Korman continues the exciting series, The 39 Clues. In the first book, The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan, we met Amy and Dan Cahill, two young kids who suddenly find themselves in a hunt for the most powerful secret in the world. Unfortunately, they are up against their vicious relatives. Relatives like Irina Spasky, who is an ex-KGB agent and stores poison in her fingernails.
The 39 Clues is a multi-author series and Gordon Korman is a great person to write the second book in the series. He is an amazing author, lately becoming an expert at writing adventure books.
I was extremely excited for the release of One False Note all the way back in 2008, and watched the premier video (which was an hour long) probably a dozen times. As usual with Gordon Korman, the book did not disappoint.
At the end of The Maze of Bones, Amy and Dan end up finding a piece of music written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. They track his footsteps to Vienna, Austria, where Mozart lived.
The sheet music is a special clue because it is different than the actual piece. The extra notes are a hint!
Unfortunately, however, when Amy, Dan, and their au pair, Nellie, are traveling to Vienna, they are attacked by the rival Holt family. Amy and Dan’s cat Saladin ends up eating the music in the confusion. Luckily, Dan has an amazing photographic memory, and is able to reproduce the music.
Mozart’s sister, Maria Anna “Nanneral” Mozart, is also a big part of the story. She had a diary that everyone believes has some secret information about Mozart that will be useful in the hunt. Their cousin, Jonah Wizard, is one step ahead of them, however, and snags the diary before they do. Amy and Dan manage to create a diversion, however, and get it back.
Amy and Dan of course have no idea how to read German, but their au pair Nellie does! She knows a bunch of languages, and her knowledge is coming in handy. When she reads the diary, however, she learns that a few pages of the diary with the important information were ripped out.
Feeling down on their luck, Amy plays the secret notes that were on the sheet music. A woman comes up to her and tells her that the notes are actually from another song called, “The Place Where I was born.” Amy and Dan therefore decide to go to where Mozart was born in Salzburg. Unfortunately, their competitors also have the same idea, and end up getting trapped in the catacombs yet again by their uncle Alastair Oh. It is a very exciting scene and also very well written.
Amy and Dan are not above taking part in the more underhanded parts of the clue hunt, and steal from Alastair Oh a clue that leads them to Venice, Italy. Jonah Wizard is already there, and they follow him into a Janus stronghold. There we learn more about the Cahill family and learn that each of the four branches (Janus, Ekaterina, Lucian, and Tomas), each have their own strongholds that they conduct clue hunting out of.
Amy and Dan’s time in the Janus stronghold is extremely exciting. They manage to steal a vital piece of information, but can they survive with the entire Janus branch after them? Eventually it comes down to a battle between Amy and Dan and their vicious Lucian cousins, Ian and Natalie Kabra. Will Amy and Dan win the clue, or will their rich cousins take it for themselves?
One False Note is an excellent book that shows to me the epitome of the excitement of The 39 Clues series. The book is exciting and also moves the plot along. It has good character development and lets us know more about the family. Korman is not quite as good as developing relatable characters as Riordan, however.
This book also gives a lot of interesting historical information. I still remember stuff I learned in it. I learned about a bunch of new and exciting places and cultures. I read this more than five years ago, and I still remember the descriptions of the waterways of Venice.
Although any of The 39 Clues books could technically be read on their own, I’d recommend reading The Maze of Bones first. For people just getting into the series, it would probably be best to start with the current Unbreakable arc, but this would be a very good book for a kid who enjoys the more recent books. It may not be quite as exciting as when the series first came out, but they are still very captivating books and will be read for years to come.