Sunday, February 7, 2010

Funny New Mystery Series

I've just come off one of those weeks where I spent 3 days never moving from my couch or bed. When I did get back to school, I could only go back half days for a while, because my body was still exhausted. During this time, I felt too ill to even read; a true sign of how bad I actually felt. However, there were a few exceptions toward the end of my "sick week", and today's review is about one of them.

There is a new mystery series out called The Brixton Brother(s) by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Adam Rex. The first book in the series is called The Case of the Case of the Mistaken Identity. This book is a very fast-paced, tongue-in-cheek, humorous mystery.

The main character in the mystery series is Steve Brixton. Steve is a huge fan of The Bailey Brothers mysteries series; he has read all 59 of the books in the series. He idolizes the two characters in the series, Shawn and Kevin Bailey, and wants to be just like them. The Bailey Brother mysteries seem to be closely based on the Hardy Boys.

** A quick side note here: I found myself totally connecting with Steve and his fascination with the Bailey Brothers. When I was younger, I also fancied myself to be a sleuth, in the same way that my idol, Nancy Drew, was. I looked for mysteries everywhere. In the beginning of this story, Steve makes the comment that his favorite Bailey Brothers mystery is whatever one he is currently reading. As someone who waited anxiously for a new Nancy Drew to come into our public library, I totally understand what Steve is saying. **

As a reader, I was drawn in by both the mysteries that Steve gets involved with as well as the sly humor that Barnett interjects in liberal doses throughout the book. I say it's sly humor, but I found myself "guffawing" (I think that's the best word for this humor) in many places. The humor is both situational (going to the library to find out a van full of top secret spies, who happen to be librarians, are attacking the library and there to capture you), mystery-related language (old-fashioned words and phrases like: "looks like a goon", "always gets his man", and "in cahoots"), funny illustrations by Rex that accurately matches Barnett's silly words (Steve dressed as a sailor as he went into a bar on the waterfront -- sailor meaning white sailor hat, black eye patch, black mustache, white tie with striped shirt, bell-bottomed pants and coordinating jacket) and kid-friendly, full of action (Steve wishing he could "wallop him with a haymaker to the kisser" when talking about his mom's new boyfriend).

As far as action goes, there is plenty of that. Steve solves his first case by the end of the first chapter. By chapter 6, he is under attack at the library (we don't know the attackers are librarian spies yet). Then, there is all the action that is quoted from the Bailey Brothers series, along with their helpful hints in solving crimes. The liberal quoting of the Bailey Brothers is not random; it very much helps the plot move along. All very fun stuff!

Add the fact that this book has some fun stereotypes: dumb adults at times and clever children, and I think Barnett has a real winner on his hands. My only complaint is that I couldn't find a publishing date for the next book. When I find a series I can't wait to get into kids' hands, I always wish there was more than one book to be able to hand them. I will be putting The Case of the Case of the Mistaken Identity in my class library and anxiously awaiting the next one.

Other reviews can be found at:

Books 4 Your Kids (while here, I found out there is soon to be an interactive website with this book. This site also reminded me that Mac Barnett and Adam Rex have already successfully teamed up to publish 2 picture books)
Book Aunt (a great description in her first paragraph of why this parody works)
Fuse #8 (has a fabulous review, but be sure to check out the video clips at the end -- definitely worth it!!)
Guys With Books (a blog in which both Mac Barnett and Adam Rex are contributors)


  1. You are so right about how much fun 'The Brixton Brothers' is. The first student to check it out of our library brought it back this week, raving about it to his friends. Now there's a nice waiting list of readers eager to get their hands on it. Your review does a great job of pointing out the book's humor. Like you, I can't wait for the second in the series!

  2. Sorry you were sick! But thanks for the recommendation -- I'm in need of some good BOY books!

  3. Ooh will look for this. Kids are always looking for good mystery series.