Simon Renier, the 13-yr-old at the center of this story, is fascinated by an old portrait of Simon Bolivar. When a cousin, Forsyth Phair, shows up and asks to buy the painting, Simon and his elderly Aunt Leonis are reluctant to part with it. But they are barely able to make ends meet, and in a moment of desperation, Aunt Leonis sells the painting. Forsyth Phair takes Simon on a boat trip to Venezuela, where he hopes to return the painting.
He is quickly befriended by Poly and Charles O'Keefe, who are traveling with their father. However, all is not as it seems on this cruise. Everyone on board has some reason to dislike or fear Forsyth Phair, and when he is murdered and the painting goes missing, the three friends race to unravel the mystery.
This report prepared by Vande Velde