Author: Casey Lyall
272 Pages–Ages 8-12
Published by: Sterling Children’s Books on 06 September 2016
“What’s with the get-up? Is that the company uniform or something?”
“This? All P.I.s wear a trench coat.”
“Dude, that’s a brown bathrobe.”
I shrugged and straightened out my sleeves. “First rule of private investigation, Ivy: work with what you’ve got.”
Twelve-year-old Howard Wallace lives by his list of rules of private investigation. He knows more than anyone how to work with what he’s got: a bathrobe for a trench coat, a makeshift office behind the school equipment shed, and not much else—least of all, friends. So when a hot case of blackmail lands on his desk, he’s ready to take it on himself . . . until the new kid, Ivy Mason, convinces him to take her on as a junior partner. As they banter through stakeouts and narrow down their list of suspects, Howard starts to wonder if having Ivy as a sidekick—and a friend—is such a bad thing after all.
I’ve been in a reading slump for quite some time now. Nothing I pick up seems good and even when new books come out I can’t find any interest in them. Nonetheless, when I’m bored I still like to hang around my local bookstore and it’s recently become even more enjoyable because a new 75% off clearance section has been added. Therefore every few days or so I stop by and take a look to see if they’ve added anything new to the shelf. Normally, it’s just a bunch of self-help books and trinkets, but occasionally there is something worth buying, which is where I found this book. I bought this along with the first book in the How To Train Your Dragon series. It had been on my to-read list for quite sometime and even if I wasn’t interested in reading it right then I was sure the time would come.
And the time did come. I was going on vacation for a few days and I needed a book to read in the airport and on the airplane. I scoured my to-read shelf (it’s been getting quite full as of late) and after careful deliberation I selected this title to keep me company. To be honest, it wasn’t because it sounded the best, but because it didn’t sound like the worst. I don’t really expect to finish the book; it’s more like for emergencies in case I’m unbearably bored.
I’m really glad I brought this book along with me. Contrary to what I thought, I actually did finish this book during my vacation and I enjoyed it.
Right off the bat it was obvious where the inspiration for this novel came from. The author, Casey Lyall, does a fabulous job of emulating the tone of old detective films. It reads like a neo-noir mystery and reminds me heavily of the era where detectives in movies always wore suits and fedora hats (kind of like in L.A. Noire). It’s brilliant. Howard fancies himself a young detective and he’s getting all his information from old detective movies like The Maltese Falcon.
Howard and Ivy (his assistant) had the best relationship dynamic. They felt like genuine friends. Howard cared enough about her to give up his dream and she cared enough to not let him. They just felt right as friends. Howard, who was initially annoyed at Ivy’s presence, eventually realized the joy of sharing something you love with someone else.
The actual mystery component was really good too. It’s an old school clue driven mystery. There’s a crime, a list of suspects, and clues. Howard and Ivy face adversity on all fronts, but they manage to come out on top in the end. I can’t say I saw who the culprit was obvious to me in the beginning, but I can’t say I was surprised by the revelation either. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it’s a reveal that might shock people who aren’t used to watching or reading old mysteries.
This book reminded me a lot of Half-Moon Investigations (Eion Colfer), a book I loved so much I wish it was a series. And I’m so thankful this one is! It’s two sequels (so far) are definitely being added to my To-Read list. When I saw the huge markdown on this book I thought it was because it didn’t sell well and therefore probably wasn’t very good. Boy was I wrong! I highly recommend this to boys and girls in middle school. If it truly didn’t sell well (I have no idea), then more people need to read this! It’s a nice, clean, fun mystery. And I truly believe that this is a book an adult could enjoy alongside their child.