Sunday, September 10, 2006

'Boy Detective' Creator Doesn't Fail

Have you noticed that paperbacks are getting more gorgeous as physical objects, as well as more imaginative than most hardcovers? Pirate Signal International, who designed the package for Meno’s visually and verbally delectable new book, deserves some special award for setting the tone from the first touch. (How many books include a “Make Your Own Boy Detective Decoder Ring!” kit on extra-heavy backcover stock?)

Meno mixes metaphors with audacity and daffy brilliance. Never once does he slide into parody, satire or trendy fake homage as he tells the story of Billy Argo, who as a youngster growing up in Gotham, New Jersey discovers that he is a born detective. His triumphs – aided by his sister Caroline and an overweight chum called Fenton – make the local newspapers, with headlines that might come straight from the Hardy Boys (“Wonder Boy Detective Unmasks Tarot Card Fake Without Any Kind Of Assistance At All”).

But Caroline eventually slides into depression and kills herself, and the Boy Detective appears to be off the case for good. Billy enters a mental asylum, finally coming out at age 30 to take a menial job. But it turns out that the Boy Detective was not really dead, only sleeping until the world caught up with him. This is one to leave around for young adults, who might even stop blogging or video game-playing to give it a try.