Exploding Experiment by M.M. Downing & S.J. Waugh: Review & the Authors’ Top Ten Addictions

Posted May 31, 2023 by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction in Author Top Ten Lists, Reviews / 3 Comments

Today I’m featuring THE ADVENTURES OF THE FLASH GANG: EXPLODING EXPERIMENT by M.M. Downing & S.J. Waugh, a page-turning middle grade historical fiction mystery!

Read on for my review of the book, and then make sure you also check out the authors’ list of top ten addictions to find out more about them!

Exploding Experiment by M.M. Downing & S.J. Waugh: Review & the Authors’ Top Ten AddictionsThe Adventures of the Flash Gang: Episode One: Exploding Experiment by M.M. Downing, S.J. Waugh
Series: The Adventures of the Flash Gang #1
Published by Fitzroy Books on March 21, 2023
Genres: Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Mysteries
Pages: 212
Source: The Author
Cover Artist: CB Royal
My rating:
4.5 Stars

That brief, blinding dazzle? The blue smudge and lingering stink? The Flash Gang has struck again! They are the most notorious thieves in Pittsburgh, food-stealing crooks the police and newspapers say are highly trained and very dangerous. But eleven-year-old Lewis Carter isn’t a thief, he’s just homeless and hungry. The Flash is a recipe he invented from bits of his missing father’s scientific research. He uses it to pinch his dinners. It’s been going pretty well, until now…Now his recipe is stolen, and he is in the clutches of some rather nasty people. Enter tutu-wearing, starry-eyed, and all around extraordinary (she will tell you) Pearl Alice Clavell. She is on a mission to uncover a Nefarious Deed she’s convinced involves the Flash Gang. Rescuing Lewis is right up her alley. Truth is, a Nefarious Deed is afoot, one that threatens the entire country. It will take Lewis and Pearl joining forces to save the recipe and themselves against an enemy who will stop at nothing, including kidnapping, and, very possibly, murder.


Buy from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Bookshop.org

I have to say that Exploding Experiment was a delightful surprise! I won’t lie–this isn’t my favorite cover (I think maybe it’s the typography?) and I’m the type of reader who unabashedly judges a book by its cover. But the endorsement from Ben Guterson got my attention, and I decided to take a chance and accept the book for review. And I’m so glad I did! I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump when it comes to anything besides graphic novels and verse novels lately (i.e. quick reads), but I picked this book up and didn’t have any desire to set it back down. In fact, I stayed up late to finish!

The story is set in the 1930s and follows Lewis, a boy who’s been living on the streets since his scientist father disappeared a few months ago. He’s been using his father’s experiment to create a diversion so he can steal enough to eat, and it’s become quite a sensation. Everyone assumes The Flash Gang (as it’s been dubbed) is associated with the mob. But when Lewis is kidnapped (and then escapes with the help of a girl named Pearl), he has to figure out why the bad guys are out to get him–and what other dastardly deeds they might be up to.

Pearl is my favorite character, as she’s wonderfully naive and ebullient. Her heightened sense of adventure raises the stakes for the reader as well. And the (grudgingly) growing friendship between Lewis and Pearl is sweet. The mystery itself was incredibly intriguing, and it goes in a direction I was definitely not expecting. Like I said, I wanted to keep reading until all was revealed in the end. Looks like I’ll have to wait a year for Episode Two: Treasonous Tycoon to come out, but it seems like it will be worth the wait!

***Disclosure: I received this book from the author via Media Masters Publicity so I could provide an honest review. No compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***

About the Authors

MM Downing grew up in Massachusetts with her best friends Nancy Drew, Superfudge, and the twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield. She also spent quite a lot of time watching MGM musicals and reenacting pivotal scenes from My Fair Lady and the lesser-known masterpiece, Grease 2, in her backyard. All this led to a BFA in acting from New York University and a wonderful job as a book editor at Warner Books and Grand Central Publishing. The stories she couldn’t perform, she began to write down, and happily was published by at Harlequin (writing as Melanie Murray) and HarperTeen (under the pseudonym Claire Ray.) She currently lives in New Jersey with her husband, two cats, one dog, and two preteens who both love to read and perform in the backyard.

Sandra Waugh grew up in an old house crowded with bookshelves, in walking distance of an old library that allowed her to drag home a sack of six books at a time. She spent most of her childhood burrowed deep within the pages of fantastical worlds and dreaming up stories of her own. Despite this, Sandra decided a writing profession was not for her because her father was an author and there was, well, that parent thing. She instead pursued a career in theater. But time and again she found herself writing—for solace, for fun, for need—and so at last admitted writing was not only in her blood, but in her soul and gave in. It goes without saying that she fell in love with an old house in northwest Connecticut because of its many bookshelves—she lives there now with her husband and an adopted dog with the worst name.

Sandra holds a degree in English and is the author of Lark Rising and Silver Eve in the Guardians of Tarnec series. She holds certifications in both yoga and Nia, which she sometimes teaches when not writing. You can also find her in the garden, inspired by A.A. Milne, trying to grow delphiniums.

Author Links:


S.J. Waugh’s Top Five Addictions

  1. Tea
    My deepest addiction. I must drink a dozen cups a day—always a bold, black, ‘breakfast’ tea that stands up to a splash of milk. My most favorite is Assam. A thrilling purchase was a cup warmer to keep my tea hot.
  2. Books
    We bought our house because of its many bookshelves. Libraries are nirvana.
  3. Gummy bears
    “Haribo Goldbears” only, please. Sour ones are even better 🙂
  4. Music
    With apologies to all the lovely musicians out there, I’m always on the hunt for ‘mood’ music to write by. Video games, TV shows, movie soundtracks, ice skating competitions—I find bits and pieces for inspiration everywhere.
  5. Walks
    I do a 2 mile walk twice daily past a stunning field with an enormous view of the western sky. If I’m lucky, I’m walking at dawn when the birds first sing, and then late night under a full moon, which makes the field shimmer in silver.


M.M. Downing’s Top Five Addictions

  1. The New York Times Spelling Bee
    I open this app as soon as I’m up and out of bed; sometimes I start it even before I’m out of bed, much to my husband’s confusion. But I must complete this each and every day.
  2. Coffee
    I love coffee madly. I love how it smells, how it looks in a mug on my desk, how a freshly-filled paper take-out cup burns my hand; I love that when I order it from certain places, I feel like I speak Italian. (“Venti, please!”)
  3. Languages
    I’m obsessed with learning about languages. My reading shelf is full of books about the history of languages, language families, verb tenses, etymologies, etc. My favorite twitter accounts are those that toss out an archaic word each day. This might be the nerdiest thing about me, and addiction #1 was awfully nerdy.
  4. Hand creams
    I’m not sure but I probably have thirty bottles of hand cream in my house right now. As I type this, I’m looking at two tubes of Occitane and a box of lavender lotion.
  5. Chocolate
    Not very original, but I love chocolate and have at least one piece each day. Life is too short not to!

I’ve always wished for a room of built-in bookshelves. I do have a few very nice bookcases, but there’s something about those built-ins that are just glorious to behold! And I’m fascinated by Downing’s fascination with languages. Now that’s some nerdiness I can get behind!

Have you read this one? What are your favorite MG adventure novels? I want to know!



3 responses to “Exploding Experiment by M.M. Downing & S.J. Waugh: Review & the Authors’ Top Ten Addictions

Leave a Reply

(Enter your URL then click here to include a link to one of your blog posts.)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.