Ty Yu, one of the biggest bullies in middle school, recruits Charlie Hitchcock and his "acute visual memory" for a little detective work.
There have been some mysterious occurrences at Ty's home, the Hocus Pocus Hotel, a residence for retired magicians. His plans to purchase a dirt bike, a “Tezuki Slamhammer 750, Edition 6, in cherry-pop lightning red,” must wait when tenant Mr. Madagascar disappears, along with his rent payment. Brack, an employee with some surprises of his own, mentors the students as they connect the clues. Charlie's interests (his skillz at Sherlock Holmes Maximum Z serve him well) allow him to quickly summarize the information and bring tidy resolutions. The children's second case involves the identity of a local ghost. The first in a series, these two mysteries connect to a larger storyline as the hotel's performers prepare for their revival show. At times, exposition causes pacing to drag. “It was just that Tyler never showed he had brains while he was in school. At school, Tyler pretty much only showed off his big arms and fists.” Digital art depicts Ty as a lanky teenager with slicked-back black hair and almond eyes; Charlie, with glasses and freckles, is significantly shorter. Drawings dissect the duo's major discoveries.
With a touch of The Twilight Zone, it's the building and its guests that provide the eeriest entertainment. (Mystery. 9-12)