Nean McKenzie, Cryptosight, Midnight Sun Publishing, October 2019, 222 pp., RRP $17.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781925227536

Max Kaminski is a cryptozoologist, someone who researches and seeks out legendary creatures which may or may not exist. Australian examples include the bunyip and the yowie.

Max has high hopes that his children, Raff and Zara, will follow in his footsteps but do either of them have the abilities needed to detect these imaginary beasts?

To test them, Max takes them on a camping trip to Wilpena Pound. Ten-year-old Zara is the more promising of the two as she can communicate with animals and see colours in Sarks, the stones which glow in the presence of the creatures. Thirteen-year-old Rafferty is a sceptic and wants scientific proof – but he does have an irrational fear of ants.

When Max disappears and three ‘baddies’ turn up, Zara and Raff are on the run, although aided and abetted by members of ICEPA (Investigators of Creatures at the Edge of People’s Awareness). As the adventures pile up, their mother and grandfather also become involved and their mother turns out to be working in a career they did not even know about. By the end of the book, the ends have all been neatly tied, but there has been a role reversal with the siblings.

While the underlying premise of the story is intriguing and the plot moves along at a rapid pace, there are elements which are disappointing. Helpful adults do happen to turn up at convenient moments, and most of them are ICEPA members who have had incidents with legendary creatures. Raff discovers abilities he did not know he had, but Zara’s promising start does not eventuate. Also, the scientific information thrown into the dialogue, such as the Latin classification names of animals, is quite jarring.

This is fascinating subject matter and a fast-paced adventure. Hopefully Nean McKenzie’s writing will continue to improve in future titles.

Reviewed by Lynne Babbage

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