Monday, February 8, 2010

Invisible Detective

The Invisible Detective, by Justin Richards, is a series billed for 5th to 8th graders with mystery and adventure and a dose of the paranormal thrown in for good measure.

It's not new -- book 1, The Paranormal Puppet Show (which goes by Double Life in the U.S.) was published in the UK in 2003 -- but it hasn't been heavily promoted in the U.S. and that's a shame because these are really excellent books.

The stories center around a group of children in 1936 London; Meg whose father knocks her and her mother around, Flinch, who has no family and lives on the street, Jonny, who is undersized and bullied, and Arthur Drake, the 14 year old son of a Scotland Yard detective. Together they have become the Cannoniers, the leg-men for a mysterious character known as the Invisible Detective. The book reveals right away that there is no Invisible Detective -- it's Art and his friends, solving minor mysteries and answering questions for the people of the community. Suddenly, though, they find themselves caught up in a real mystery, and one that threatens to be much bigger than they bargained for.

An odd exhibition has come to Cannon Street -- a warehouse filled with automatons which look eerily like people who have been reported missing in the community. Coincidence? The children aren't sure, but there is certainly something sinister going on, if only they could figure out what it is.

At the same time, there's a parallel story from 2003; Another Arthur Drake, this one thoroughly modern, stumbles into a shop one day and discovers the casebook of the Invisible Detective. Funny thing is, the whole notebook is in Art's handwriting. He becomes obsessed with figuring out who the Invisible Detective was, and how he himself seems to "remember" things he wasn't even alive to experience.

The story is full of action, creepy, but pleasantly so, and the characters are likeable. The historical period is one which American kids aren't going to be familiar with -- it concerns the abdication of Edward VIII so he could marry Wallis Simpson, and Hitler re-arming Germany prior to the start of WWII -- but the events are pretty well explained for readers.

I think this one could be for kids even older than 8th grade, certainly at least through 9th grade, and possibly even through 11th. I wouldn't go much younger than 5th grade, as it might be a little scary, a little violent (people do get killed, though all the violence is at the end and is not graphic at all) for younger kids and the complexity of the language is better for middle school and older.

This is a series that deserves a wider audience in the U.S. It's good literature for kids, thoughtful, exciting, full of kids with integrity trying to do good things, a solid mystery, and a second, even more tantalizing mystery about Art himself. There are 8 books in the series -- go check them out from your public library.

No comments:

Post a Comment