Half-Moon Investigations (2006) by Eoin Colfer
Back Jacket: Fletcher Moon has never been like other kids. For one thing, he has had to suffer the humiliating nickname "Half Moon" because of his short stature. But the real reason Fletcher is different is that ever since he was a baby, he's had a nose for sniffing out mysteries. And after graduating at the top of his Internet class, he is officially certified as the youngest detective in the world. He even has a silver-plated detective's badge to prove it. Everything is going along fine until two things happen: a classmate hires him to solve a crime, and his prized badge is stolen. All signs point to the town's most notorious crime family, the Sharkeys. As Fletcher follows the clues, evidence of a conspiracy begins to emerge. But before he can crack the case, Fletcher finds himself framed for a serious crime. To clear his name, he will have to pair up with the unlikeliest of allies and go on the run from the authorities. Fletcher has twelve hours to find the guilty party--or he is the guilty party.
Review: This book is smart, wry, and laugh-out-loud funny. It's so easy to like Fletcher, not least because of his engaging narration. Told in the first-person, Fletcher is dryly humorous, and I could easily picture him in a trench coat, hat pulled low over his brow. He pretty much swaggers around in the spirit of his P.I. idols. Kind of like Calvin's (of Calvin and Hobbes) alter ego Tracer Bullet.* For example:
My name is Moon. Fletcher Moon. And I'm a private detective. In my twelve years on this spinning ball we call Earth, I've seen a lot of things normal people never see. I've seen lunch boxes stripped of everything except fruit. I've seen counterfeit homework networks that operated in five counties, and I've seen truckloads of candy taken from babies. I thought I'd seen it all. I had paid so many visits to the gutter looking for lost valentines, that I thought nothing could shock me. After all, when you've come face-to-face with the dark side of the school yard, life doesn't hold many surprises.
So, basically Fletcher is adorable. But readers will also learn that while he talks like he could be a P.I. in a small, smoky office, he is also a twelve year old dealing with regular Twelve Year Old Stuff. Like his parents, going to school, and trying to make friends. Which relates to the other great thing about this book: the side characters really have vim. Take, for example, Fletcher's older sister Hazel, who practices her own scripts into the wee hours of the morning and is basically a cynical fifteen year old WHO IS AWESOME. Also, every other character including Red and April. And of course, it doesn't hurt that the plot is fast-paced, with the puzzle pieces falling into place for the reader at just the right pace.
Conclusion: 4/5 Eoin Colfer has a magical way with characters, words, and voice. I distinctly remember laughing out loud in several spots, as did my sister. (We took turns reading aloud; sometimes it's the best way to enjoy a book). I can't say for certain whether I would re-read this book (it's hard to do with mysteries) but the buoyant joy of the experience is enough to earn it a 4.
*Calvin and Hobbes is probably my most favorite comic strip. Also, Bill Watterson's birthday was July 5th! Happy Birthday. Here, here, and here are Watterson's strips of Calvin as Tracer Bullet.