Stoneybrook is opening a new museum, and Claudia is excited. There's going to be an exhibit of sculptures by one of her favorite artists, Don Newman, and plenty of other neat stuff. Since most of it is pretty kid-friendly, Claudia decides to take the Arnold twins and Corrie Addison with her to check the place out. There's lots of fun, hands-on stuff for the kids to enjoy in the science and music rooms, but Claudia kind of hurries them through so she can get to the Newman exhibit. They never actually make it down there; while they're heading in that direction, the fire alarm goes off. Claud's first thought is to get the kids out, and just as they've reached the exit, they hear another alarm. This one's different; it sounds to Claudia like the alarms that are attached to art and artifacts that shouldn't be touched. The girls head out to the museum's courtyard, along with quite a few other people. A guard shows up and tells everyone that some valuable coins have been stolen, and everyone will have to be searched before they can leave. Claudia, Corrie, and the Arnolds make it through their search scot-free, of course, and Claud leaves the museum determined to solve the mystery.
At the next day's BSC meeting, the robbery is all the girls can talk about. They rehash everything that happened to Claudia and the kids, and they decide as a group to go back to the museum the next day, stake the place out, and try and figure out where the thief might have stashed the coins. The club (Mallory, actually) determined that they must still be in the museum somewhere, since everyone was searched and the coins weren't found. Claudia thinks they might have been dropped in the donation box, but that's impossible (it's emptied every night). Claud also thinks that they might have been hidden with some souvenir coins in the museum gift shop, but no dice; those "coins" are made of chocolate. :) Jessi thinks the thief threw them into the fountain, but the girls don't find them there. The girls are pretty bummed that none of their theories panned out, but Claudia and Stacey decide to stay and finally take a look the Don Newman sculptures. Newman likes his art to be interactive, so the museum actually welcomes visitors to touch his pieces. Claudia and Stacey touch just about all of them, but when Claudia comes to one of her favorites, Claudia gets suspicious. She'd seen and touched it before, in New York, and it feels different than it did that time. Claud thinks it's a fake (and Stacey thinks she's lost it), and heads right for the curator's office to talk to him. He's pretty mean to them, and that makes Claud even more suspicious. She swipes a copy of his resume off of his desk when no one's looking, wanting to find out more about him.
The next day, the club gets together at Claudia's to talk about the mystery. Claud had pretty much decided to throw the curator's resume in the trash without looking at it, but when the girls (and Logan, who came to the meeting) start talking about how creepy he seemed, she shows it to them. They head to the library to do some research on the museums that were listed on the document, and what they find is very interesting. All but one of the museums listed had a robbery happen during Mr. Snipes' time there, which pretty much confirms the girls' suspicions. Something still isn't right in Claud's mind, though; she feels like she's missing something. After thinking about it, she realizes what it is. She'd gotten a pretty good look at the broken glass case right after the robbery, and there was glass all over the inside of it. If the glass had been broken before the robbery, there would have been blank spaces where the coins had been. Claudia realizes that the person who took the coins must have had a key to the case, making it an inside job. She's also still convinced that the Newman sculpture is a fake, so what does she do? She gets his phone number from information and calls him at home. Newman is very nice, and tells Claudia that the sculpture probably felt different to her because he built little hiding places and secret compartments into a lot of his work so he could hide surprises in there for his kids. Claud loves that idea, but less than a year had passed between her two viewings of this piece, and Newman definitely hadn't hidden anything in there during that time. He's intrigued, and invites Claudia and her parents to a formal party at the museum the following night in honor of the end of his exhibit so they can check out the sculpture together.
At the party, Claudia tells Newman how suspicious she's been of Mr. Snipes. They decide to follow him when they notice him leaving the party, but all he does is head to his office. Then, they head to the room where the sculpture is displayed, but find out that it's been moved to a storage room already. Claudia and Newman head to the storage room, but hide when they hear someone coming. It's the janitor, and they watch as he reaches inside, and pulls out the missing coins. When the janitor turns around to leave, he sees that he's being watched. He tries to make a break for it, but Newman tackles him. Someone else, who turns out to be a Federal agent, then tackles Newman. As it turns out, he custodian wasn't really a custodian; he was a thief who'd been planning to take the coins since the museum first opened. He'd been planning to sell them to a museum in Switzerland and retire on the proceeds of the sale, but the museum had been tipped off in advance that it might be vulnerable to theft. That's actually where Mr. Snipes entered the picture. He specializes in preventing robberies, which is why he was brought to Stoneybrook to work at their museum. Claudia gets a write-up in the paper for her role in the case, and is made an honorary trustee of the museum.
Meanwhile, Claire Pike has decided that she wants to be in show business. She even gets a video made of herself singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" at the mall, and goes as far as sending it out to an agent. After a talk with Jessi about the rigors of celebrity life, though, Claire decides that the entertainment world really isn't for her.
Thoughts and Things
- This is definitely NOT Ellen Miles' best work. I think it's one of the worst written mysteries I've read so far.
- If all but one of the museums that Mr. Snipes was sent to protect ended up getting robbed anyway, I'd say he's not very good at his job.
- I like Don Newman, but it was weird that Claudia just went off alone with him in the middle of his party. She barely knew the guy!
- Claudia's outfit on the cover is exactly like the one that she's described as wearing in the book. Also, if you changed all the pink stuff to purple, that would pretty much have been my dream outfit as a kid. :)
- Speaking of the cover, where did Carolyn Arnold go?