Reviewed by Liz Konkel for Readers' Favorite
Chutes and Ladder by Marc Jedel is the second book in the Silicon Valley Mystery series. Marty is roped into taking his niece on a camping trip with her Girl Scout group, which is the last thing he wants to do. He doesn't even like the woods and it's clear he's not wanted. To make matters worse, he discovers a body, which turns out to be his longtime poker buddy, and he ends up annoying the cops again. When he goes to offer his condolences, he gets swept into solving the mystery and uncovers surprising clues once his cousin visits.
Marty is quite the humorous sleuth and reluctant uncle who is pulled into camping to make his niece happy. Marty makes for a delightful protagonist as he stumbles his way through camping and trying to fit in with the Girl Scouts, but also through his discomfort with the woods, dogs, and his slight social awkwardness. Marc Jedel gets the story off to a hilarious start as Marty finds himself agreeing to accompany a Girl Scouts' camping trip, which makes for an unusual setting for the discovery of a body. The tone remains lighthearted even when he finds the body of a friend. Jedel weaves in humor even through the more serious moments, never missing a beat with Marty looking a little foolish. The humor is derived through various elements from a clever dog that keeps getting free of his crate to an eccentric cousin that makes life interesting. The familial relationships are delightful with his sister and niece constantly poking fun at him, which makes their every scene amusing. Other than his family relationships, he has his friend at work with whom he has several amusing scenes. Through this relationship his work life is explored and opens up a surprising connection to the mystery.
Some light romance is found throughout as he and his girlfriend are in a sweet bubbly place in their relationship. Though Larry isn't seen alive, Marty's investigation into his life gives a deeper connection to Larry and an understanding of the person he was. The mystery is complex with two bodies, a ninja, lots of complications, and plenty of crazy antics for Marty to get into. Jedel offers plenty of twists, keeping the mystery entertaining, and brings Marty to a surprising conclusion. Chutes and Ladder is a humorous second book in the series with more eccentric characters, clever humor, a complicated mystery, and a lot of heart.