America’s next great kid detective is back! Steve Brixton, twelve-year-old “licensed” detective, is officially in business. After solving his last case (and saving the United States of America) he spent some of his Christmas money to turn half his bedroom into his Crime Lab. A few weeks went by without any actual cases. Until the night Victor Fairview, the richest man in Ocean Park, called Steve to help him find his stolen diamond.
Author Mac Barnett has managed to strike just the right balance, mercilessly mocking the absurd conventions of the kid detective genre (especially The Hardy Boys) while telling his own absurd kid detective story. In the second book of The Brixton Brothers series, The Ghostwriter Secret, Steve (who has no brother—”Brixton Brothers” just sounds better) gets word that his favorite author MacArthur Bart, author of the fifty-eight Bailey Brothers Mysteries books, has been kidnapped! With his friend Dana, who would rather grow up and be a veterinarian than help Steve sleuth, Steve sets off on an action-packed adventure, filled with crime syndicates, stolen loot, and … ghostwriters.
It’s a hilarious book that will keep your kids (and you) guessing at the eventual outcome, and I enjoyed every bit of it. Barnett has a great way with words and it’s just a joy to read, even as an adult. Here’s a small example, after Steve tells Dana, “I have a hunch.”
Dana didn’t understand. A hunch didn’t need evidence to be true. A hunch was like a two-legged stool that somehow still managed to support a fat man’s weight. A hunch was remarkable, even magical.
If, like me, you grew up reading Encyclopedia Brown and The Hardy Boys, this is a series you’ll really love. Barnett’s books are still filled with clever kids and bumbling adults, but at the same time he acknowledges that a twelve-year-old is really not going to take out a grown henchman with a blow to the solar plexus … or is he? You’ll have to read the book to find out.
Wired: Despite relying on The Bailey Brothers’ Detective Handbook for tips, Steve still manages to solve two mysteries, avoid getting killed and bring down a nefarious crime syndicate before his mother grounds him for skipping school.
Tired: You’ll wish the real-life Mac Barnett, like the fictional MacArthur Bart, could manage three books a year because it’s so hard to wait for the next one.
Disclosure: I received an advance reader’s copy of the book for review purposes.