(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The Philadelphia Adventure is the fifth in a series of books that feature the indomitable Vesper Holly. It is a novel of high adventure imbued with classic elements: a beautiful, fearless heroine, a loyal side-kick with comic qualities, a dastardly villain, a worthy cause that involves saving the "whole blessed United States of America," a growing sense of intrigue and suspense, and a gripping conclusion that includes a high-speed chase—on bicycles. Written in the lighthearted vein of the old-fashioned melodrama, the story moves at a swift pace as Vesper seeks to outwit the fiendish Dr. Desmond Helvitius whose schemes know no limits in the evil they purport. Vesper is aided in her efforts to thwart Helvitius by a loyal contingent of friends that is willing to risk life and limb for her. They endure kidnapping at gunpoint; they leap head first into fetid bogs; they are ravaged by brambles, insects, heat, rain, and hunger; they survive horse and carriage chases at breakneck speeds; and they face annihilation on every hand by the diabolical plotting of Dr. Helvitius.

Although The Philadelphia Adventure is a rollicking, exuberant tale, it is not a giddy adventure without substance. The novel deals with issues pertinent to the reader's world as it explores the questions of whether good is ultimately a stronger force than evil. The story line questions whether Vesper and her loyal comrades can discover the real intent of Dr. Helvitius's...

(The entire section is 296 words.)