Fred Rexroad

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  ...See more >


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"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

BOOKS REVIEWED BY KIRKUS:

Pub Date:
ISBN: 978-1-946650-14-6
Page count: 200pp

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.

CHILDREN'S & TEEN
Pub Date:
ISBN: 978-1-946650-04-7
Page count: 192pp

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.

CHILDREN'S & TEEN
Pub Date:
Page count: 194pp

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.

CHILDREN'S & TEEN
Pub Date:
ISBN: 978-0-9817742-2-0
Page count: 188pp

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.

ADDITIONAL WORKS AVAILABLE:

WHIZ TANNER AND THE WOUNDED PIGEON
Children's & Teen

This story opens with 6th graders Whiz Tanner and Joey Dent racing to the local vet’s office trying to save a wounded pigeon with a message attached to its leg. While there, they realize they are being followed, adding to the mystery they already stumbled upon. Later, back at the Crime Lab, they get a look at the message and are surprised at what they see—a coded message with the word BOMB. Using good, self-taught detective techniques, our young heroes, with the help of a level-headed and sometimes distracting girl classmate, follow the clues leading to the owner of the pigeon only to find themselves involved in a very serious kidnapping case. Staying one-step ahead of the local police, they outwit the kidnappers and save the college student who tied the message to bird in the first place. But this only begins the real mystery about what the message means. The message was found in a hundred year old book belonging to the founder of Jasper Springs and nobody could read it. Of course, Whiz breaks the code but the riddle it produces only deepens the mystery. Whiz and Joey eventually follow the riddle to the middle of a graveyard on the Messina College campus. Not wanting to dig up a grave, they convince the geology department to use ground penetrating radar to see what may be buried there. And to everyone’s surprise (except Whiz’s) there is more than a casket under the ground. As it is dug up, we find that Whiz and Joey have solved a five-year old crime involving a stolen sword. To complete the case, Whiz tracks down the thief and convinces him to turn himself in to the Jasper Springs Police.

Published:
ISBN: 978-1-946650-07-8
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