ISBN 978-0-545-78978-3 $17.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 4-6
A candy bar is the going rate for Arthur Bash’s protection, so when Darius Drake [End Page 32] offers up not one but three Snickers for Bash’s bodyguard services, the middle-grade big man is happy to oblige, thinking all he’ll have to do is keep bullies away from the nerdy, red-headed Darius. Unfortunately, Darius doesn’t mention that the extra payments mean extra danger, and soon Arthur is acting as Darius’ protector from actual bad guys with actual guns looking for the very same treasure Darius is trying to track down, a piece of jewelry linked to his town’s history and his parents’ death. The Conan Doyle echoes are clear, with Darius the incredibly intelligent but emotionally clueless Sherlock figure, while Arthur’s a beefed-up Watson (there’s even a bit of Mary in Arthur’s stepsister Deirdre, who becomes essential in their eventual escape from the villain). Arthur’s straightforward narration and direct addresses to the reader make this highly accessible, and the plot’s quick pace, with the appearance of a bloodstained letter and a decrepit old house within the first few chapters, gives it immediate appeal. Like Lyall’s Howard Wallace, P.I. (BCCB 9/16), the story hints at the boys’ emotional lives, as each kid struggles with insecurities and family turmoil, but their problems never reach an angst level that overwhelms the engrossing mystery. For kids who’ve moved beyond Encyclopedia Brown but aren’t quite ready for the various YA iterations of Sherlock, this will hit the sweet spot.