Ridley Pearson long ago established himself as one of the premier writers of adult crime novels. His latest book, Steel Trapp: The Challenge, however, is his first foray into crime novels for young adults. As he explained in a recent interview, this book was originally intended to be another adult thriller.
"It started as an adult crime thriller and had at its center a young boy of 14. I wrote the whole novel as an adult novel," said Pearson. "In working out what I wrote next for my adult publisher, it became apparent I wasn't going to use this book. My assistant at the time, Louise Marsh, who was always the first to read my material before any of this career kind of thing came up [writing books for kids] said, 'Hey, are you totally sure this should be an adult novel? I'm totally loving the kid in this book. Maybe it should be one of your kid books.' And I kept saying this is a Roland Larson book [the U. S. Marshall from Cut and Run]. As time went on I realized that she was right, and I went back and recast the book with the kid as the focal point and sort of turned down the volume on the Roland Larson parts."
The kid is Stephen "Steel" Trapp, a brilliant boy of 14 who is blessed (or cursed depending on how you look at it) with a photographic memory. While on a train to Washington, D. C. to compete in the National Science Challenge, he sees a woman get on the train with a briefcase. When the woman exits the train in Chicago, she leaves behind the briefcase. Stephen takes the briefcase to her but she insists it isn't hers, even though Stephen is absolutely sure he remembers her bringing it on the train. His attempt to be a Good Samaritan immediately backfires as he becomes entangled in a kidnapping and terrorism plot and puts himself in mortal danger. With the assistance of Roland Larson of the U. S. Marshalls' Fugitive Apprehension Task Force, Stephen tries to unlock the mysteries inside the briefcase and stop the sinister plan before it is too late.