The Boy Detective Fails—Joe Memo

In our town - our town of shadows, our town of mystery - it seems our buildings have, without reason, begun to disappear completely. Still full of their loyal inhabitants, the buildings and the people all disintegrate soundlessly. The air has been hard to breathe, full of regret and the glassy voices of the unsurprised dead. (35)

I found this book in a lovely new and used bookstore in Berkeley. As with almost all books, I judged it by it's cover, and found myself intrigued. A disembodied arm being examined by a small, tie-clad boy? Sign me up.

The book follows the life of Billy Argo, a once-lauded boy detective. He used to solve crimes with the assistance of his younger sister Caroline and their neighbor Fenton. Following his high school graduation, Billy leaves home to study Criminology at university. His life is shattered when he hears of the suicide of his younger sister. As it turns out, she had attempted suicide once before but his parents neglected to mention it him. Crippled by her death, and feeling left with nothing but questions in that regard, Billy attempts suicide in the same way as Caroline. His life is saved, but he is committed to a local mental hospital. After ten years, state budget cuts lead to the realization that Billy isn't actually in need of that support and medication any longer. He is transitioned to a sort of halfway house. As he attempts to re-enter the world, the long-dormant questions regarding his sister's death surface, and he once again takes up his magnifying glass and notebook in order to find some answers.

While mostly a quick read, there are moments of touching poignancy as Billy journeys back to something resembling contentedness and sanity. Along the way, there are also special messages and codes for the intrepid reader who cares to decipher them. A quite enjoyable, fairly light-hearted read which allows a brief reminiscence of old school detective stories with a facelift.

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