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  • Saxby Smart, Private Detective: The Curse of the Ancient Mask and Other Case Files
  • Hope Morrison
Cheshire, Simon Saxby Smart, Private Detective: The Curse of the Ancient Mask and Other Case Files; illus. by R. W. Alley. Roaring Brook, 2009 [176p] ISBN 978-1-59643-474-5$13.95 Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 3-5

Meet Saxby Smart, a ten-year-old detective who works out of a toolshed in the garden of his British home. After explaining his vocation and commissioning the reader to fill the shoes of sidekick, Saxby goes on to describe three of his recent cases, the account of each filled with jottings from Saxby's notebook and frequent direct questions to the reader The reader-as-sidekick device works splendidly: Saxby's scrawlings offer a window into his problem-solving and invite the reader to do the same, and all three cases have some nice twists and less-than-obvious outcomes, requiring an element of deductive reasoning. As further appeal, Saxby doesn't always claim confidence in the middle of a case (in one particular notebook entry, he flat-out admits, "Fact: I am very confused"). There is much more than a hint of Encyclopedia Brown here, but with a kicked-up twenty-first-century feel (Saxby takes photos with his cell and zaps them to his brainy friend Izzy for research, for instance), and the good-natured Saxby will appeal to lots of young readers. Alley's detailed sketches provide lots of atmosphere and character to the text; they rely heavily on hatching to add dimensionality, and the drafting is as effective in the scattered spot art as it is in the many full-page illustrations. Young mystery readers will clamor for more Saxby Smart just as soon as they get through the three cases herein (so they'll be pleased to hear that more adventures are expected), and even reluctant readers may find Saxby an affable bookmate. [End Page 354]



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