Book Review: “Molly McKeever and the Case of the Missing Clown” by Zachary Shatzer

This is a mystery about a detective tracking down a clown who is scheduled to perform at a local boy’s birthday party. The clown, who is also the boy’s uncle, has suddenly vanished with no explanation, and the boy hires Detective McKeever to find him.

Of course, Detective McKeever is only 8 years old, so this makes it hard for her to conduct an investigation. But she’s resourceful and plucky and, like any kid, doesn’t know any better. So, naturally, she finds herself involved in all sorts of comic misadventures, from infiltrating clown meetings to spying on cheating air hockey players. It’s full of all the zaniness we’ve come to expect from Shatzer’s books.

What really makes the story work is McKeever’s seriousness and her annoyance at the refusal of adults to ever take her seriously, which as often as not she turns to her advantage. It’s a fun story that captures how the world seems to a kid.

Remember McGorgol and Hockney at the Guano Island Hotel? That book was a fun take-off on mystery tropes with bird detectives. There’s something similar going on here, with kids acting out the roles of a noir mystery. Having incongruous characters enacting a familiar set of tropes is a good recipe for comedy, and Shatzer, master of humor that he is, uses it well.

Devoted Shatzer fans, of which I am one, and hopefully I’ve managed to persuade a few more, will no doubt enjoy this latest addition to his body of work.


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