Moriarty Lives: Mel Childen, Blubb and the Amazing Morphing Machine (New York: Pocket Books, 1996).
A self-consciously “humorous” children’s spy/evil death Lord thriller, part of a series: previous books are My Brother Blubb and Blubb and the Chocolate Treasure.
Daphne Trusk and Harv Stavely are relativly ordinary children, but they are friends with Sidney Agenda, a trainee spy at a secret academy, and Daf has adopted as her brother Blubb, a superhero Sidney Agenda has built.
In this episode, Harv has been elected Mayor for the Town’s Youth Day, and Lowell Gravenstein, evil genius from the Town’s Moriarty College is out to foil him. Having stolen Sidney Agenda’s morphing machine, he installs himself as Youth Mayor. Lowell needs an A on his social science project―“Take over a group of people and bend them to your will.” And will stop at nothing.
It’s an enjoyable romp: Blubb gets to change shape a lot, Lowell uses his evil gas, and at the end Lowell discovers that force is not the way to get people to do things―although he doesn’t learn that control is evil.
There was one unsual moment in the book. Daf asks Sidney why he didn’t know about Lowell’s anti-will gas and Sidney shrugs and points out that there have been rumblings on the grapevine for weeks but:
the hero grapevine also circulates rumors about cold fusion, antigravity boots, and cures for acne―just about anything. Most of this stuff turns out to be fairy tales.” (105)
It’s a throwaway line, but suddenly the world felt real and the adventure didn’t feel like an interruption in the day to day, but part of a consistent world that adults were ignoring.