Somehow I missed Brixton Brothers Book 3 when it came out last October (my own detective skills need some brushing up), but my favorite kid detective Steve Brixton is at it again in It Happened on a Train. For reasons you may guess if you read Book 2, Steve is disillusioned and has given up on detective work. At the ripe old age of twelve, he has decided to retire.
Even when a surfer finds him at his house asking Steve to solve a mysterious riddle his grandfather left behind, even when he notices something fishy about the shark bites in the guy’s surfboard, Steve is determined to quit. No more adventures. He’s even stopped calling his best friend Dana “chum,” because that’s detective-speak.
But then, wouldn’t you know it, they end up on a train with a mysterious unnamed car on the end, a cranky-looking guy with a car and a gun, and a plot about international car thieves … and Steve is back on the job.
This latest volume from Mac Barnett (with illustrations by Adam Rex, as usual) hits all the right notes, with some double-crossing, red herrings, and a train-top chase. (You’ll find out why Steve is wearing a fluffy white bathrobe.) There’s a pretty funny subplot about Dana and his girlfriend, Other Dana, who has gotten him hooked on a series of fantasy books called Wizards’ Worlds, which Steve can’t stand.
I’d read the first two books aloud to my third-grade daughter, but when I got this one she couldn’t wait. We were in the middle of another book at the time, and she insisted on reading this one herself so she could plow through it (after, of course, re-reading the first two). But I finally got a chance to read it myself, and it’s hilarious. Barnett excels at ending chapters with cliff-hangers, frequently with mundane resolutions on the next page, and he’s great at putting Steve in ridiculous situations.
If you’re looking for a terrific middle-grade series with a bit of action, adventure, and humor, start with Book 1 and work your way through. It’s definitely geared toward boys, but my daughter has really enjoyed them, too.
Wired: More action for Steve Brixton! A girlfriend for Dana! Another mention of “solar plexus”!
Tired: Not quite as many excerpts from the Bailey Brothers this time, but you do get a snippet of Wizards’ Worlds.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a review copy of this book.