The mystery has always been a strange type of story. It often takes a terribly traumatic moment—a murder or kidnapping or theft—and turns it into a puzzle to be solved. Happily, the crime in this graphic novel isn’t particularly traumatic.
Students on a field trip are at the museum when the painting’s stolen right in front of them. It’s one of the most famous paintings in the world, the Mola Lisa. (All the characters are animals, and—unfortunately—they have jokey names like Mr. Shrew and Ms. Boar.) There’s no doubt that this is a puzzle, because the clues are laid out like game pieces. A shiny piece of confetti and a receipt from a magic shop are sitting on the floor of the museum. Readers new to the genre will find this refreshingly direct, but more seasoned ones will wish the story were a bit less schematic. The detectives have only a few character traits. Ray Ratzberg, for example, is a rat who loves cheese. Most of the jokes, sadly, are on that level, though the name of the school, Elm Tree Elementary, is a clever tongue twister. Even puzzle fans may be disappointed that there are so few suspects to challenge them.
The problem with the story isn’t just that it’s been reduced to a puzzle, but that there was so little else there to be reduced. (Graphic mystery. 6-12)