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.