Books for Children
Howard Wallace, P.I.
By Casey Lyall (Author)
“What’s with the get-up? Is that the company uniform or something?”
“This? All P.I.s wear a trench coat.”
“Dude, that’s a brown bathrobe.”
I shrugged and straightened out my sleeves. “First rule of private investigation, Ivy: work with what you’ve got.”
Twelve-year-old Howard Wallace lives by his list of rules of private investigation. He knows more than anyone how to work with what he’s got: a bathrobe for a trench coat, a makeshift office behind the school equipment shed, and not much else—least of all, friends. So when a hot case of blackmail lands on his desk, he’s ready to take it on himself . . . until the new kid, Ivy Mason, convinces him to take her on as a junior partner. As they banter through stakeouts and narrow down their list of suspects, Howard starts to wonder if having Ivy as a sidekick—and a friend—is such a bad thing after all.
“Through the lens of an engaging mystery plot, the theme focuses on how friendship changes as one gets older and how some friendships fall away while others strengthen. Another subplot involves issues of bullying. There is plenty of humor, too, as Howard gets around on a busted old bicycle and wears a bathrobe in place of a traditional detective’s trench coat. VERDICT Strong writing, relatable themes, and a solid mystery combine for a read that both boys and girls will have trouble putting down.” —School Library Journal
“Grantleyville Middle School lowlifes beware: shamus Howard Wallace is on the case! Twelve-year-old Howard Wallace is obsessed with Sam Spade and other hard-boiled detectives, and he runs his own detective agency (brown bathrobe standing in for the trench coat) from his home and school offices. He solves cases and hands out bills, using his proceeds to buy stashes of his favorite gum and care for his beloved, ancient bike, Big Blue. When a new case involving a stolen student-council checkbook lands in his lap, Howard reluctantly takes on a junior partner, new girl Ivy Mason. . . . Almost immediately, the duo starts getting anonymous threats telling them to drop the case. Who's behind the theft and threats? The rich, connected student-council president? Her BFF, who lost the election for treasurer to Howard's client? The disgruntled faculty adviser? Or someone even more unexpected? Canadian author Lyall's debut is a middle school mystery that offers a few laughs, believable characters, and enough realistic kid detecting to keep young PIs turning pages. Through Howard's references to noir detective greats, readers in the target audience who have no reference points for such will begin to learn the tropes of the genre. Once it gets going, the mystery is engaging enough to carry them past bumps. Likely to see sequels; Howard and Ivy deserve them.” –Kirkus Reviews
“Twelve-year-old Howard is a detective of the Sam Spade persuasion, right down to calling his newest client, Meredith, ‘doll face.’ Meredith, student council treasurer, is being blackmailed. Checks (cosigned by a teacher) have been stolen from her, and she gets a note warning that if she doesn’t quit the council, she will be exposed as irresponsible or worse. Howard takes the case, but soon finds himself sharing it with a partner, new girl Ivy, who understands that though Howard proclaims he’s content being an eccentric loner, the truth is different. Lyall neatly juggles several plotlines, interweaving several of Howard’s cases (with Meredith’s predicament as the through line) with the shifts and muddles of middle school as well as his burgeoning relationship with Ivy. On occasion this is over the top, but that usually adds to the entertainment value. Give this to fans of Encyclopedia Brown who are looking for longer (and funnier!) well-plotted mysteries.” —Booklist
“A middle-school gumshoe takes on a new case—and a new partner—in this promising first installment of a series that cleverly introduces the world of classic private eyes to young readers. Twelve-year-old Howard Wallace runs his P.I. business, Wallace Investigations, out of an old shed in the back of Grantleyville Middle School, where he solves cases along the lines of missing trumpets and cats, while portraits of his heroes Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe look on. It’s not surprising that Howard is a loner: he dresses in a ratty brown bathrobe (his version of a trench coat), and he sounds like he walked off the set of The Maltese Falcon. ‘What can I do for you, doll face?’ he asks one prospective client, who grimaces in response. His latest case is a doozy, replete with blackmail and increasingly menacing threats, and then there’s new student Ivy Mason, who’s determined to join Wallace Investigations. Engagingly blending the fictional world of dames and private eyes with keen insights about adolescent friendship, Lyall’s debut is a winner.” —Publishers Weekly
*“Lyall’s crack at the trending genre of middle-grade noir is an absolute delight, told with clear affection for the usual P.I. story tropes and injecting them with just the right amount of amusement while avoiding sarcastic mockery. Banter between Howard and Ivy is snappy with a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it pace, and the humor ranges from subtle wit to LOL comedy. The case brings up some emotional turmoil for Howard, but it’s seamlessly woven into the larger mystery plot, adding depth to the story but never overwhelming it. Pair this with Krieg’s Griff Carver, Hallway Patrol (BCCB 6/10) as a solidly entertaining introduction to hard-boiled detectives.” —Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (STARRED REVIEW)