The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity
A Brixton Brothers Mystery by Mac Barnett
Review: Mac Barnett introduces Steve Brixton, a school age investigative detective (just like it says on his license, which he received for 12 cereal box tops plus $1.95 shipping and handling) on a quest to find a national treasure in The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity.
Steve is given a homework assignment on a Friday, due Monday, to write an 8 page essay on needlework. He'd rather be writing about being a detective, the topic given to his best friend and chum Dana ("don't call me chum"). The following day he goes to the library and finds a book titled An Illustrated History of American Quilting, which he promptly labels the most boring book ever written. Worse even than The Serious Skald's Guide to Medieval Icelandic Poetry. But someone must think the book is interesting, because Steve is soon being chased by a secret society of librarians, a thug working for a mysterious Mr. E., and the Ocean Park Police, an officer of which just happens to be dating Steve's mom. Using helpful hints provided in The Bailey Brothers Detective Handbook, Shawn and Kevin Bailey being two amateur sleuths featured in his favorite series of mysteries, Steve narrowly escapes all sorts of dangerous situations, and with the help of his chum Dana ("don't call me chum"), solves a mystery that dates back to 1776.
The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity is a clever, at times wickedly funny, spin on The Hardy Boys mystery series, right down to the illustrations and endpapers. Quotes from The Bailey Brothers Detective Handbook are generously provided and include advice on hiding places ("You can hide in or behind … grandfather clocks … today's newspaper … hedge mazes … sea caves … secret tunnels … Mexico!), an illustrated guide to how to make rope, and to do if you find yourself tied up with rope. Of course, the advice doesn't always work quite as well for Steve as it did for the Bailey Brothers. Shawn and Kevin, for example, simply flexed their muscles as they were being tied up, only to relax and have the rope fall effortlessly to the ground after their captors left. When Steve is tied up, he relaxes and the ropes are as tight as ever. "For the first time it occurred to Steve that Shawn and Kevin Bailey had considerably bigger muscles than he did. The old flex-your-muscles-while-you're-getting-tied-up trick did not work every time."
The plot is no more far-fetched than the typical Indiana Jones or National Treasure movie, and is really quite delightfully convoluted. That it will engage young readers is almost a given; what's possibly more surprising is how much the book will appeal to adults, especially those familiar with The Hardy Boys series books. The only incongruous aspect to the story is the inclusion of a scene in which Steve is threatened with a gun. It seems particularly inappropriate given how light and entertaining the story is; moreover, it's nonessential from a plot perspective. Children are exposed to enough overt violence in their everyday lives; it's unnecessary here in what is otherwise and overall an exceptional example of escapist entertainment.
Acknowledgment: Simon & Schuster provided a copy of The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity for this review.
Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity:
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The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity by Mac Barnett — A Brixton Brothers Mystery
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: October 2009
List Price: $14.99