Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Big Splash - Jack D. Ferraiolo

i've always said i hate mystery stories. can't ever picture myself reading nancy drew or miss marple. however, i've come to the conclusion that the above statement is not entirely true. in fact there are detective stories that i absolutely love love love. patrick neate's "city of tiny lights" would be one of those. i'm also a big fan of blue balliet's smart interactive mystery series. so maybe it just depends on the mystery. one thing i do know is that i do tend to get a kick out of a good hard boiled detective novel. and wasn't i lucky that a couple of authors have published just such a thing in recent months?

first up is "the big splash". this book may very likely end up getting my vote for best kid's book of the year. it is just that brilliant. picture hard boiled detective/mafia gone middle school. sound messed up? it is. and its funny. matt stevens is a middle school private eye dedicated to upholding justice. so when one of vinny biggs' favourite squirt gun assassins is hit, matt finds himself tangled up on the wrong side of playing field as he attempts to solve the mystery. all he knows is that he'd better be careful or he'll end up in the outs, the least popular club in school.

matt stevens is a smart character and the book is full of fabulous gumshoe witticisms. just check out this sample paragraph: "peter kuhn was the least likely kid to do anything criminal. honor society, basketball star, top of his class. on the surface peter was a happy-go-lucky model student, but underneath, he had a dirty little secret: he was a pixy stixer. he'd go through two or three packs a day. he'd even drink soda through them, as if they were ordinary straws. it instantly doubled the amount of sugar in your bloodstream. two pixy juices a day was enough to send most kids over the edge, bouncing off the walls 'til midnight. by the middle of last year peter was hitting the juice six times a day..."

something about that just makes me laugh. in fact i spent a lot of time just chuckling to myself while reading ferraiolo's book. my only concern is that kids won't get it. i mean i know what noir and pulp are. i've seen my fair share of mafia movies. i know that ferriaolo is riffing on much darker stuff when he penned "the big splash". but most kids don't have those sorts of references in place. so my concern with this is that much of the humour may fly right over their heads. but maybe that's not so bad. i'm not sure i want 10 year olds able to pick up on too many of those references anyhow. regardless, i still think it's a great book, even if i'm not entirely convinced it's target audience will get it.