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Opening Moves — “Blackgaard Chronicles” Series


Readability Age Range



Year Published

Book Review

Opening Moves by Phil Lollar has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the first book in the “Blackgaard Chronicles” series.

Plot Summary

City councilman Philip Glossman used to be a New York businessman. It’s been five years since he failed to acquire Odyssey’s old Fillmore Center building for his boss, the mysterious Dr. Regis Blackgaard. He’s sure Blackgaard is punishing him by making him stay in Odyssey and spy on the locals.

Blackgaard orders Glossman to find a small-time con artist named Richard Maxwell. Maxwell works as a janitor at a nursing home, where he steals the residents’ valuables. Blackgaard says he needs Maxwell to make some trouble in Odyssey.

Glossman is particularly annoyed by do-gooder John Avery Whittaker, who currently owns the Fillmore Center. Whittaker, known to most as Whit, purchased the building after his wife, Jenny, died fighting to save it. Whit turned the building into Whit’s End, a haven of wonder and imagination for the local kids. It includes a soda fountain, museum, penny arcade, bookstore, radio broadcast center, theater, laboratory and workshop. Whit strives to make history and the Bible come alive for his young friends.

Through flashbacks, readers learn how Adventures in Odyssey regulars Connie Kendall and Eugene Meltsner came to be employees at Whit’s End. Connie and her mother moved to Odyssey from California after Connie’s parents divorced. Connie stopped into Whit’s End looking for a clothing store where she planned to apply for work. Whit offered her a job instead.

Connie was determined to get enough money to return to California. When she did, she discovered she was no longer comfortable with her partying friends. She had learned a lot about God and the Bible during her time at Whit’s End. Returning to her new home in Odyssey, she asked Whit to pray with her so she could give her life to Christ.

Eugene is a brainy inventor and college student. He came to the shop to meet Whit after hearing about the man’s interesting inventions. Eugene started to work for Whit, but brought too much automation to the facilities. Whit urged him to scale things back so that the patrons could learn and discover on their own.

Whit trusts Eugene’s skills, so he shows the young man his top secret computer that monitors the inner workings of Whit’s End. The computer is hidden behind a bookshelf in Whit’s office. Whit stresses there is one program on the computer Eugene may not open under any circumstances. It is called “Applesauce.”

Connie’s natural curiosity often gets her in trouble. She becomes increasingly annoyed when Whit seems to be working on something mysterious and will only share with Eugene. Glossman makes things worse when he attempts to get information from her on Whit’s projects. He subtly suggests Eugene’s intellect is superior to hers.

One day, when Whit and Eugene are both out, Connie needs to turn on equipment in one of the rooms. She goes into Whit’s office and uses a key she’s seen Eugene borrow. She discovers Whit’s secret computer room. By accident, she activates Applesauce.

Eugene has joined her by this time, and the two stand by, helplessly, as the power goes down all over Whit’s End. The computer tries to instigate phase two of Applesauce, but Eugene and Connie don’t know the password. They ultimately have to tell Whit what’s happened. Whit is deeply saddened and disappointed. He tells them they don’t realize what they’ve done and that he has to fire them both.

Blackgaard receives a notification on his computer telling him Applesauce has been engaged. He is pleased and orders Glossman to bring him Richard Maxwell. He wants to meet with Maxwell in Chicago, face to face, since his devious plan is moving forward.

Christian Beliefs

Whit’s End includes a Bible Room and Whit’s invention called The Imagination Station. Both areas bring the Bible to life for kids. When Connie returns to California, she learns one of her hardest-partying friends has become a Christian.

Connie discovers she can no longer fight God. She asks Whit to pray with her, saying she wants to ask Jesus to come and live in her heart. Whit says he has prayed to hear her say those words. After becoming a Christian, Connie says she feels God’s presence every day.

Connie grows increasingly frustrated when Whit shares secrets with Eugene, not her. She prays for God to help her with her emotions.

Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

Whit creates a discovery emporium for the children of Odyssey. Through his words, actions and inventions, he shares his faith in Christ. Glossman and his boss, Blackgaard, are unscrupulous men who manipulate and steal from others for their own personal gain.

Profanity & Violence


Sexual Content


Discussion Topics

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Additional Comments

Divorce: Whit’s daughter is divorced, as are Connie’s parents.

Partying: Though no specific behavior is mentioned, Connie says she and her California friends often partied.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.