Steve Brixton wants to be a detective. He has read every Bailey Brothers detective novel at least twice, and has already begun preparing for a life of criminal investigation. Yet he is taken completely by surprise when, attempting to check out a book on quilting for a school project, he is accused of treason and becomes embroiled in a plot involving secret agent librarians, national secrets, and numerous police chases. It’s up to Steve to clear his name and solve the mystery.
Author Mac Barnett was writing with tongue firmly implanted in his cheek. As an adult familiar with children’s detective series (think Hardy Boys), it was obvious where many of the tropes he was riffing on originated. It was great the way he played with detective novel standbys, and the ways that those strategies don’t work in the real world. Nevertheless, Steve remains confident in the advice of the Bailey Brothers books.
Although Steve is a seventh grader, the age of the target reader is probably much younger. This is solidly a middle grade novel, from the amusing pictures to the quick pace and short chapters. Although girls will also enjoy the series, this is a solid choice for boys, and it’s somewhat refreshing to see a “boy book” that is funny without body function jokes and features a regular boy who is not a “nerd” or a genius, but simply enjoys reading.