Fred Rexroad lives in Vienna, Virginia and writes mystery stories. His life has been an eclectic array of locations and interests. He's lived in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, West Coast, Midwest, South, Europe, and on a boat. He's printed cigar boxes, owned a magic store, flew a plane, built an ultralight, worked as a self-employed statistical analyst, photographed oil spills and shifting sandbars from a helicopter for the US Coast Guard, taught at Wright State University, solved logistics problems for the US Air Force, trained NATO personnel in the use of computer programs, wandered unarmed in warzones, was the top operations research analyst at the US Department of Education, did top-secret analysis for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and found some time to write children's stories. He's still trying to decide what he wants to be when he grows up. Fred is a member of the Writer's Center in Bethesda, MD, the MWA (Mystery Writers of America), and the SCBWI (the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) among others.
“The book moves at a cracking pace with several exciting episodes that require courage and resourcefulness from Whiz and Joey, leading to an ending that’s pure satisfaction.”
– Kirkus Reviews
On a family ski trip, two middle school gumshoes try to solve the mystery of stolen Olympic medals in this fourth installment of a series.
For best friends Whiz Tanner and Joey Dent, both 12, visiting a ski lodge with their families is the first vacation they’ve had since starting their detective agency earlier in the school year. But as readers of this series might expect, detective work finds them. Former Olympic skiers Harrison Revel and his brother, Benjamin, helped build the Marsh River Mountain Ski Resort; on display in the lobby are their three medals of bronze, silver, and gold. A small crowd gathers as Harrison opens the case and shows the medals to the kids. That night, the lodge gets snowed in by a blizzard—and in the morning, the medals are missing. The case that held them is discovered in the garbage, but that’s the only clue, because the lobby’s security cameras are down. The Tanner-Dent Detective Agency swings into action with some help from Madilynn and her younger brother, Wyatt, other kids at the resort. They develop and whittle down a list of suspects, lift fingerprints, and set a trap for the most likely culprit. Can they prevent him from fleeing with the loot? Rexroad (Whiz Tanner and the Mysterious Countdown, 2019, etc.) varies his winning formula with a new setting outside the Jasper Springs Museum, a good way to keep things fresh, with the snowed-in lodge providing a reason that adult authorities can’t get involved. The briskly moving story shows solid sleuthing in the details of acquiring fingerprints, checking alibis, and eliminating suspects. It’s not groundbreaking—the super-glue method of raising prints has been around for decades, for example—but it’s realistic. These well-described scenes help make up for an absent feature of the adventure series, the fancy Tanner-Dent crime lab. The two friends make a good team; Joey’s regular-kid narrative voice contrasts well with Whiz’s precise diction and large vocabulary. Joey also brings courage and ability to action scenes.
Enjoyable writing and effective detective work stand out in this series entry.
Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2019
Page count: 155pp
Publisher: Awesome Quest Mysteries
Review Posted Online: Aug. 9, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019
In this sixth middle-grade adventure novel in a series, two young detectives investigate an injured carrier pigeon, a mysterious message, and a lost treasure.
In the small town of Jasper Springs, criminals often meet their match in the Tanner-Dent Detective Agency, consisting of two meddling sixth-graders: Joey Dent and Wilson “Whiz” Tanner. Although Police Chief Reid doesn’t like to admit it, the youngsters have solved some knotty cases. Joey, or “Agent K” for detecting purposes, is the “Director of Field Operations,” meaning he does most of the running around, while Whiz, or “Agent M,” is “Chief Investigator,” the mastermind of the outfit. As the novel opens, the detectives are speeding (by bicycle) to the local veterinarian after discovering an injured bird—a carrier pigeon with a mysterious coded message. Dr. Wolfe removes the pellet that someone shot at the bird, who will live to fly again—but who owns this feathered friend, and what does the message mean? In their headquarters—a sophisticated “Crime Lab,” housed underground in Whiz’s backyard—Whiz decodes the jumbled message, but it remains cryptic. They find the pigeon’s owner, Sally Kelly, but her boyfriend, Bob Weston—the last person who possessed the bird—is missing, his college dorm room ransacked. Several adventures, a rescue, and an enigmatic college dissertation lead to answers—and buried treasure. Rexroad (Whiz Tanner and the Secret Tunnel, 2018, etc.) again provides an entertaining mystery that hearkens back to series like the Three Investigators. As in previous books, the vintage feeling is heightened by a strange paucity of modern communication devices outside the Crime Lab, which doesn’t always make sense; Sally, for example, lives in her own house, but she can’t afford internet access. The boys’ personalities are nicely balanced; Whiz is a Holmes-like genius, while Joey, the Watson-like narrator, is a more relatable, ordinary kid, often distracted by mundane matters, such as baseball tryouts and his perplexing feelings for aspiring seventh-grade detective Jessica Carlton. Although the adventure isn’t quite as exciting as the previous installment’s, it will still keep readers guessing.
Another enjoyable case from the Whiz Tanner files.
Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2018
Page count: 200pp
Publisher: Awesome Quest Mysteries
Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2018
In this third adventure in a series, two sixth-grade detectives investigating a mysterious DeLorean discover a hidden tunnel and nefarious shenanigans.
When a schoolyard argument ensues over whether someone really was pushing a DeLorean into Farmer Zimmer’s barn near the abandoned secret Air Force antenna station, the kids know who can provide the answers: the Tanner-Dent Detective Agency, consisting of sixth-graders Wilson “Whiz” Tanner and Joey Dent, who narrates the book. (They also know enough to make a Back to the Future reference.) With their well-equipped secret crime lab and Whiz’s “super-duper brainpower,” the duo has already solved several mysteries in Jasper Springs that confounded local police. After dodging some bulls in Farmer Zimmer’s field, the agents do discover the DeLorean in his barn—along with some puzzling elements, like a large hole with a ladder in it. Further surveillance shows that Donald and Cal, two suspicious men, are digging a tunnel toward the Air Force station in order to steal a large safelike object for an unknown buyer. With adults hard to convince, the boys know it’s up to them to nail the thieves, so they conceive a daring, technologically advanced, and patriotic plan to expose the villainous plot, hoping once again to show the power of meddling kids. Rexroad (Whiz Tanner and the Vanishing Diamond, 2018, etc.) provides another pleasing entry in this series, which, despite its modern setting has the vintage feel of Donald J. Sobol’s Encyclopedia Brown books or Robert Anthony Jr.’s Three Investigators series. This is partly due to the lack of any real danger in the story as well as Joey’s love of root-beer floats, plus Jasper Springs’ poor cellphone coverage—meaning old-fashioned communication difficulties (that happen to be convenient for the plot). But Rexroad does introduce modern investigative tools and techniques like geotagging, drones, and pattern-recognition programs, which are used to good effect in solving the mystery. The book moves at a cracking pace with several exciting episodes that require courage and resourcefulness from Whiz and Joey, leading to an ending that’s pure satisfaction. Joey, an ordinary, sports-loving kid, supplies a relatable narrative voice that makes a good contrast with Whiz’s precise diction and brainy vocabulary.
Another highly entertaining Tanner-Dent investigation.
Pub Date: April 15, 2018
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Rexroad International
Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018
Two young detectives investigate a rash of burglaries while assisting a visiting stage magician in this middle-grade adventure sequel.
The Tanner-Dent Detective Agency of Jasper Springs consists of two sixth-graders, chief investigator Wilson “Whiz” Tanner and Joey Dent, the director of field operations and the book’s narrator. (Their code names, respectively, are “Agent M” and “Agent K.”) Whiz’s backyard storm shelter houses the enviably cool Tanner-Dent Crime Lab, “which rivals any lab in any small police station in the country.” Recently, they solved an art crime, but before becoming detectives, the boys performed magic shows. When the Great Magini, a professional magician, visits town and needs young assistants for his show’s big illusions, they resolve to audition, so they brush up on their skills involving misdirection. They’re chosen for the gig, but they also have a new case to investigate: small valuables from several stores have been stolen. Each time, a customer asked to see the item—a diamond, a rare coin, a locket—but didn’t buy it, and the shopkeepers are certain that they put each piece away afterward. Then the items disappeared—almost like magic. The young detectives’ allies include Jerry Mormann, a local reporter, and, usually, members of the Jasper Springs Police Department; however, a new exchange program has swapped friendly Patrolman Bailey for mean Officer Ward. Rexroad (Whiz Tanner and the Phony Masterpiece, 2017, etc.) delivers an enjoyably old-fashioned mystery, reminiscent of Donald J. Sobol’s Encyclopedia Brown books, the Three Investigators series, and Franklin W. Dixon’s Hardy Boys tales; more than once, Whiz and Joey even visit the drugstore for milkshakes and floats. There are no real red herrings among possible suspects, though, making it easy to see the link between one of the characters and the thefts. But Rexroad does complicate the story with an unexpected motive, among other elements. He also shows his characters’ growth by, for instance, introducing a possible romantic interest for Whiz; Joey’s comments about this nicely capture a sixth-grader’s ambivalence about such matters. The finale offers a satisfying payoff.
A cozy, entertaining kids’ mystery.
Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2018
Page count: 194pp
Publisher: Rexroad International
Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2018
Two young detectives tackle a big small-town case involving a painting.
In this debut novel, Whiz Tanner is a genius sixth-grader who investigates mysteries in his small hometown of Jasper Springs. Playing Watson to his Sherlock Holmes is Joey Dent, who’s not quite as good at deduction, but makes up for it with his eagerness to learn and his hero worship of Whiz. Together they form the Tanner-Dent Detective Agency, complete with the “secret identities” Agent M and Agent K. Whiz is getting tired of solving “small” cases and wants to do something big enough to prove that Tanner-Dent is a professional organization. His wish is granted when an exhibition of famous forged paintings comes to the town museum, and he and Joey suspect one of them has been switched for a cheap fake. The plot thickens when the suspicious work is stolen—by someone dressed as an astronaut. As the Tanner-Dent team proceeds with the probe, it must deal with police who don’t take the two private eyes seriously, annoying neighbors, sinister criminals, and curfews. Rexroad’s series opener shares an upbeat, adventurous spirit with other kid detective books like the Hardy Boys or Encyclopedia Brown series. It even includes such 1950s-style elements as ham radios and unsupervised bike rides—even though it’s meant to take place in the present day. The plot is engaging, with plenty of twists and turns, but observant readers may be able to put together some of the resolution before the end. Whiz and Joey’s odd friendship makes for some sly humor and heartwarming moments, but sometimes their dialogue is less than believable. Sentences like “This reconnoiter excursion should only take fifteen minutes” sound OK coming from a child genius, but when Joey starts dropping his contractions, it seems a little stilted. But young readers who enjoy these kinds of gumshoe tales should still savor the story.
An artful mystery with appealing sleuths.
Pub Date: Jan. 25, 2013
Page count: 188pp
Review Posted Online: May 26, 2017
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