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.