Fourteen tales of small-town detection already charged with nostalgia when they were first published between 1957 and 1972.
Irascible William Rastin is the only registered Democrat in Borgville, Mich. He’s no friend of Sheriff Pilkins; in fact, the most consistent emotion Biggle (The Chronocide Mission, 2002, etc.) injects into these tales is the two men’s mutual dislike. But Grandfather Rastin, whose exploits are recounted by his grandson Johnny, comes by his contempt honestly, since he runs rings around his sleuthing rival. Though there’s not much crime in Borgville (pop. 812)—at one point Grandfather accurately predicts the town’s first homicide in 20 years—his jaundiced approach allows him to divine why one thief would want to steal a worthless violin and how another could make the rounds of high-school classrooms helping himself to a Bunsen burner, a cheap broach, a slide rule, a volume of Michelangelo prints and $68, all without being seen by a witness posted in the corridor. Once you settle into the stories’ slow pace, you realize that Grandfather is a very funny sleuth whose mastery of punch lines is devastating.
The moderate level of malfeasance—a not-quite-murderous assault, a con man working a remarkably original graft, the return of a bank robber whose last appearance was in 1937—would make this volume a perfect introduction to the genre for a YA audience if only they hadn’t all been weaned on R.L. Stine.