When we last saw Steve Brixton, the one and only Brixton Brother, he was jumping out second story windows; eating copies of his own warrant as they spooled out the fax machine; and ordering milk on the rocks on his way toward solving The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity, the first entry in Mac Barnett’s series for young readers. Both a spoof of and homage to Encyclopedia Brown and The Hardy Boys, The Brixton Brothers series promises a certain Pixar-like charm: hilarious entertainment aimed at kids but perhaps best appreciated by adults. Anyone with a healthy appreciation for “Get Smart” or The Naked Gun movies would certainly see in Steve Brixton traces of Maxwell Smart and Lieutenant Frank Drebin, though it should be said Steve’s foibles are less the result of being dense than being twelve.
The Ghostwriter Secret, the second entry in the series, sends Steve and his ace chum Dana on a search for MacArthur Bart, Steve’s hero and the renowned author of The Bailey Brothers, “a.k.a. America’s Favorite Teenage Supersleuths,” the lodestar for Steve’s newly founded (as well as fully licensed and bonded) detective agency. Bart has gone missing, and Steve has a hunch he can find him. Along the way, Steve finds more second story windows to jump out of; narrowly escapes a warehouse fire; learns the difference between stalactites and stalagmites; escapes from a kidnapping by vomiting on his apprehender; gets rocks thrown at him by seventh grade bully Nate Rangle; and finally discovers the exact location of the solar plexus.
Despite all these hijinks, there’s a certain zing missing from The Ghostwriter Secret. Chalk it up to the sophomore slump. It doesn’t help that there are grammatical errors on pages 43, 160 and 217 of the book. An enterprising young sleuth who pays such attention to detail deserves an editor who does the same. All that aside, there’s no reason not to look forward to Steve’s next adventures, though his infatuation with the Bailey Brothers may be diminished after what he encounters in the twists and turns of his second outing. If not America’s Favorite Teenage Supersleuths, who will Steve emulate next?