The Inverted Eagle: A Student's Book Review

I'm super proud to offer you my very first guest post on this blog from one of my students:
Martina R.

Back Story:  
On January 21st, Adam Gray and Marcos Benevides released the World's First Free-to-Share Commercial ELT Textbook.  Martina (an adult who works in banking) and I have been working for some time on her use of connectors in written work - particularly reports and emails - however I decided to invite her to visit the link provided by Marcos on Twitter, as knowing that she loves crime fiction books I thought that perhaps reporting on a story in English might help her to utilize these words in a more natural context.  She downloaded the book and wrote not only a summary of the story but also made notes on what she learned and provided Marcos with feedback regarding the sale of creative commons licensed material via the internet. 


The story is told by Adam Gray and Marcos Benevides and has 6 chapters. The length of each chapter is comfortable. In the following I will give you a short summary of the content of the individual chapters:

Introduction - Characters:

Mr. Evan and Nancy Reed both are in the fifties, Judith Reed is the mother of Mr. Evan Reed. The Reeds had two children: Kevin and Allison. Lucia Deza was the housekeeper of the Reeds, Miguel was the son of Lucia and was also living in the Reed´s house.  A detective, Eliana Koo, in charge of the investigation. Officer Kazuo Yokota helped Eliana. Eliana’s nickname is Ellie.

Chapter 1

There was a crime in the Reed´s house: a robbery and a drugging. Someone stole all things which were located in the wall safe above the bed of Evan and Nancy. Both were victims. Things of value were kept in the safe: jewelry, some stamps and cash: about $ 80k. Judith and the housekeeper found the Reeds at their bedroom in the morning. 

You should know that the wall safe was opened without the use of force!

Evan and Nancy had to stay some days in the hospital, due to the drugging. But both victims were okay.

Seven people were living in the house of the Reeds: the five Reeds and the housekeeper with her son.  Kevin, the son of the Reeds, was twenty-four years old, and unemployed. His younger sister Allison was twenty-one and a student at Brown University. By the way, she was engaged to marry Derrick Quenton, the son of the owner of the Quenton Hotels. The Quentons were one of the richest family in the country. Miguel was nineteen years old and a pre-med student at Georgetown University. He was born in Peru.

Ellie visited the Reeds and started her investigation.

Firstly, Ellie had a look at the bedroom of the Reeds´ where the crime happened. She made a detailed scan of the whole room and wrote her notes directly into her laptop. An important detail she noticed was a spilled teacup and a large wet spot near the teacup. Then, Ellie talked with Ms. Judith Reed and the housekeeper Lucia to get a first picture of what happened on the day when the crime had taken place. Two important questions were “Who knows the combination of the wall safe?” and “Who had a key to the bedroom of Evan and Nancy Reed?”

Chapter 2: Three Interviews

A lot of questions and many answers as well as an interesting feedback from the crime lab.

The crime lab found out that the tea which the Reeds had got (?) before the robbery was drugged with powerful sleeping pills. Nancy Reed was allergic to these pills.   Ellie had a conversation with Kevin first, the unemployed son of the Reeds. She asked him about his activities last night and where he was.

The second conversation was between Ellie and Allison, the youngest daughter of the Reeds. Ellie asked her the same questions as she had asked Kevin – what did you do last night and where? Moreover, Ellie asked Allison about her fiancé Derrick.

Finally, Ellie wanted to have a talk with Miguel. He started the conversation with “I have something to tell you that will make me look guilty, ….” After his honest statement, Ellie asked him the same questions as the two women.

Two of the three people could have a reason to steal the things out of the wall safe: (a) Kevin – because he was unemployed and needed additional money and (b) Miguel - because Evan and Nancy Reed wanted him to leave the house – and Miguel could be angry about this. In addition, the student was studying medicine, so he knew about the effect of sleeping pills.

Chapter 3 – The Hospital

The first lie: Judith told Ellie that she lied concerning the combination of the wall safe, she gave the numbers to Kevin. Because of her age, Judith forgot, that she also gave the combination to Miguel. After this, Ellie wanted to hear the whole story. Judith started to tell the story which had begun a month ago with the purchase of a beautiful stamp.

At the end of the conversation between Ellie and Judith Reed Yokota, a colleague of Ellie and Kevin entered the room. Ellie saw Kevin and she accused him of lying to her.

The next steps: Elle checked the stories of the involved people and wanted to search the house from the top to bottom.

After that, Ellie drove to the hospital where Evan and Nancy Reed were staying. Nancy was sleeping  and Even was telephoning someone with his cell phone. Ellie stopped in front of the door and tried to understand the call between Evan and the other person. The words (which) she heard were “Brian … investors …. excited about the project – to get money together”. Some / a few seconds after the  call, Ellie went into the room and introduced herself to the Reeds. Then she told the Reeds a part of her investigation. It was surprising, that Evan accused his son of committing the robbery, because the Reeds wanted that Kevin tried to find a job and they had informed him that they were stopping his monthly allowance. Later, Ellie asked the Reeds to describe the occurrences which happened last night separately?

At the end of the Chapter, Yokota called Ellie and told her that there might be a new motive ….

Chapter 4 – The Suspect

The likely suspect was Kevin at the moment – he lied several times: concerning the safe combination, his financial situation and his activities on the day of the crime.

Suddenly, the cell phone of Ellie rang again and Yokota was on the other end of the line. He had an interesting piece of news which would change the current situation and the investigation: The police found the stolen things in the room of ……

Ellie spoke to the person in which room they found the stolen things.

Chapter 5 – Family Secrets

Ellie had a daughter. When Ellie investigated a hot case and needed a lot of time, Sofia –  her daughter – stayed sometimes at her neighbor.

Ellie talked again with Allison. The daughter of the Reed´s didn´t believe that Miguel was a criminal. Ellie discussed again with Allison about the relationship between both and checked the schedule last night. Allison had an advantage, her diary, in which Ellie found the proof that Allison told the truth.

Later Ellie decided to check the bedroom of the Reeds once again and she found new findings.

Chapter 6 – The Arrest

Back at the police station, Ellie made a few phone calls and received some interesting information about Mr. Reed and his financial situation. Moreover, the lab had new findings concerning the stolen things. Finally, Ellie had all information to proof who was the suspect. She went to the hospital and told the Reeds the result of her investigation.

-  0  -

Key words and phrases I learned
The first time I read the story, it was interesting. During the second reading, I marked the words I didn´t know. I translated some of the marked words which I think could be important and interesting for me. For instance: “unconsciously – my donkey bridge = the two people were drugged..”.  The story is realistic, so I can draw pictures in my mind to keep new words. In addition, I have learned vocabulary like “nodded” (nicken), “muttered (murmeln)”, “growled” (knurren), “yawned” (gähnen), “frowned” (die Stirn runzeln), “yelled” (schreien), “urged” (ermahnen), “scoffered” (verspotten / Judith scoffered Ellie.), “annoyed” (verärgert / Ellie looked annoyed).  The word “cane”: A lot of older people being over 70 years need a support when they will go / will move – for example they could use a cane.  “Allowance” – Taschengeld. Children get a fixed allowance per month.   

Furthermore, I reviewed my grammar skills. 

Interesting points of grammar I noticed
The position of an adverb – for example: “Ellie asked gently.” – also possible “Ellie gently asked.” Or “Ellie said politely.”

Best features to this style of writing and exercises – enjoyed most
The style of writing is moderate, the essential vocabularies are understandable and most of the essential vocabulary is comprehensible. The author mostly uses short sentences. The different exercises are helpful as they repeat the content of the chapter and the vocabulary. I especially like the questions, which will result in an answer for an important question. To describe a picture (a room) in a way of adding the missing things is also a good idea.  The story, the exercises as well as the content of the story, all this things are successful but the vocabulary in the story could be on a little slightly higher level - could be slightly more challenging.

If you had to buy this book, what price would be suitable / what is it worth?
I would like to pay around 10 Euros for such a book. The book is worth between 20 and 30 Euros. The ideas / conceptions of exercises are brilliant. But the Internet offers a lot of books and exercises so that I think, people will not pay more than EUR 9.99 for such a learning book which you can download via Internet.

Martina R.
Stuttgart/2 Mai 2010

Oh, by the way, Adam &Marcos - Martina has already started Death on U Street and she wanted me to let you know  that she'd like you to write more books please.

What do you think of Martina's summary?  Would you like to give her feedback on her description or ask her any questions?  Do you think that your students would benefit from reading a summary like this?   

Where are learning materials heading - how long will it be before most textbooks and readers become available online?  What do you think of their bold strategy in allowing the price for download to be determined by the purchaser? 

Useful links

image credits: Eagles by Alaskan Dude on

4 Responses to “The Inverted Eagle: A Student's Book Review”

  • Marcos Benevides says:
    May 19, 2010

    @Martina: Thank you so much for posting this; you really made my day! I hope you enjoy the second story as well!

    @Karenne: A student guest blog; what a fantastic idea!

  • Shelly Terrell says:
    May 19, 2010


    Your student did a brilliant job and what a genius idea as the teacher to get her to post her review as a blog post! Love this book, too!

  • Marcos Benevides says:
    May 19, 2010

    Hi again, Martina!

    Regarding the CC license, this has been an experiment for us in many ways. One reason we haven't worried so much about the price of the CC version is that we think the benefits of having many people around the world try the book for free will lead to at least *some* teachers and students choosing to order the regular printed version in the future.

    The printed version is convenient, in colour, includes listening practice, and comes with a student notebook as well, so we think that it will still be a good choice even though people can get the whole written story and exercises for free or at their chosen price. We hope that we can eventually make a profit from the printed version.

    Plus, it's nice to think that students in richer countries like Germany, Japan, etc., by being able to pay a fair price, will subsidize the cost of students in poorer countries who often can't pay for study materials.

    The possibilities of this new digital marketplace are fascinating to consider, aren't they? I think what our publisher did this year may not be possible for all textbooks or all publishing companies--and it may also not be possible in a few years' time, if everyone does stop wanting printed versions of textbooks. I guess we'll have to see what happens!

    But thanks again for your very thoughtful comments!


  • Adam says:
    May 19, 2010

    Karenne and Martina, I was so happy to read your blog entry. As an author it is so nice to read about people using and enjoying your text.

    Fear not, another book is in the works right now.

    And like Marcos said, the color book is even better!


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