Mysteries plus

21 Oct

Josh Berk writes contemporary mysteries solved by teenage boys with senses of humor. In The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin, a boy solves his classmate’s murder in a mineshaft, while tossing off lines like, “I don’t have a proven talent for normal,” and, “What if they get out a battering ram and knock down the door, thinking I have died, Elvis-style, on the crapper?” In Guy Langman, Crime Scene Procrastinator, a boy and his friends investigate a theft and a mysterious death, but Guy also channels Josh Berk’s trademark irreverence: “Does replacing an ‘e’ with an apostrophe automatically make something sound more poetic? I lunch’d on school burritos; I fart’d for days. Yup, sure is poetry …”

This mix of amateur detective work and sometimes-crude humor (similar to that found in Don Calame’s Swim the Fly) makes the books readable and fun, although a couple of serious issues also give them substance. Hamburger Halpin is a deaf student trying to mainstream into his new school. Guy Langman is coping with the death of a father who was less than perfect.

Guy Langman also includes some technical details about crime-scene analysis that are likely to appeal to readers in a world where CSI and forensics have become media staples.


Jennifer R. Hubbard is the author of young-adult novels The Secret Year (Viking, 2010) and Try Not to Breathe (Viking, 2012). She has not solved any murder mysteries.

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Written by Jhubb

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