I just barreled through a delightful comic-mystery, brimming with clever intrigue, careening with impetuous young detectives, and sparkling with charming wit. Did I love this book? Reader, I did.
The World’s Greatest Detective, by Caroline Carlson
published in 2017 by Harper
Set in the fictional, vaguely British, turn-of-the-century city of Colebridge, this novel’s key player is one Toby Montrose, age 11, a kid who has taken on the role of hot potato the past several years, poppeting about from one odd relative to the next after his parents up and went missing.
He’s finally landed with the Last Resort relative, an Uncle Gabriel whose detective business has been sagging for some time. Toby is determined to boost Montrose Investigations’ fortunes in order to keep from being shipped off to a ghastly orphanage. For, if Uncle Gabriel’s business goes phut, according to Toby’s dear Aunt Janet, that’s the only option left.
Becoming an ace detective himself, then, seems the obvious, self-preserving move for Toby and he’s surging with hope in that regard due to 1) his recently arrived packet of Inspector Webster’s Detection Correspondence Course materials, and 2) his bold decision to sneak into the invitation-only contest for World’s Greatest Detective (cash prize: $10,000!) being held by none other than Hugh Abernathy, aka the current world’s greatest detective.
Sneak, he does, landing himself in a sprawling mansion amongst six other competing detectives, various household staff, their posh host and hostess, and the brilliant Ivy who…well, you’ll just have to meet Ivy yourself to appreciate this girl’s pizzazz and acumen.
But before you can say whodunit, Mr. Abernathy’s little contest has turned from a mock-crime into an honest-to-goodness murder! The stakes for young Toby and the fizzing Ivy are sky-high as they plunge into the investigation of their young lives!
Caroline Carlson’s prose, pace, and good humor are a delight, tumbling along with pointedly Victorian-detective style as young Toby stumbles into one trouble after the next.
Independent readers ages 9 and up will close the book and ask for more.