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The Boy Detective Fails (Punk Planet Books) Paperback – January 1, 2006

4.0 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Playing such mysteries as "The Case of the Brown Bunny" against the mysteries of mortality and mankind's capacity for evil, the latest from Meno (Bluebirds Used to Croon in the Choir) presents former child sleuth Billy Argo at 30, having just finished a 10-year stint in a mental hospital, where he was confined after his teenage sister Caroline's suicide. Unhappy, painfully shy and doped up on antianxiety drugs, Billy arrives in New York City and is admitted to a psych halfway house. Haunted by the mystery of his sister's death and feeling that a lapse in his sleuthing may be to blame, Billy is determined to find out the reason for her suicide and to punish those responsible. He soon finds allies in two bright and unpopular children who live across the street, and clues to relevant past cases from lifelong arch-enemy Professor Von Golum (who happens to live across the hall). Not all the plot strands pan out, and the effect is more impressionistic than narrative (various codes strewn throughout have their own digressive pleasures). But the story of Billy's search for truth, love and redemption is surprising and absorbing. Swaddled in melancholy and gentle humor, it builds in power as the clues pile up. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Following up on his coming-of-age tale, Hairstyles of the Damned (Akashic, 2004), Meno has created a wry and somewhat surreal novel chronicling the adventures of Billy Argo, boy detective. Given a True-Life Junior Detective Kit by a relative, he becomes a local celebrity when he solves a string of crimes of a type unfamiliar to most mystery-book heroes. The story turns even darker when Billy suffers a breakdown following the suicide of his younger sister and fellow crime solver. By turns comic and strange, the novel follows Billy through his travails in the fictitious city of Gotham, NJ. Teens will gravitate to the weirdness of this place where city buses, wax museums, school yards, small headless animals, and evildoers with missing body parts abound. Billys dreamy encounters challenge his courage and inadvertently bring resolution to the mystery of his sisters death. The characters along the way are memorable and the bizarreness builds throughout. Readers appetite for solving puzzles also increases as clues are dropped to help Billy in solving the big puzzle of the unknown. Always a challenge for adults, young or old, Meno is a talent worth following.–Thomas Fortin, Fargo Public Library, ND
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Series: Punk Planet Books
  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Akashic Books (January 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933354100
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933354101
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #831,348 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Encyclopedia Brown. The Hardy Boys. Nancy Drew. The Bobbsey Twins. And... Billy Argo?

You probably don't remember Billy from your pre-teen reading days. That's because he makes his literary debut in The Boy Detective Fails, at the age of 30. Ordinarily, one would think that being 30 years of age would make it unlikely for Billy Argo to be a "boy detective," but this isn't an ordinary book about some ordinary boy. This one is "special," if you catch my drift. The author manages to take on a genre while remaining somewhat outside of it, and brought about clichéd characters while keeping them decidedly original.

As a child, Billy Argo (along with his sister Caroline and neighbour friend Fenton) spearheaded many investigations which had baffled local authorities, much to the chagrin of the sheepish mayor - counterfeiting rings, serial arson, the occasional brutal murder, etc. Rare was the week which passed by without an appearance of the trio on the front page of the newspaper, pantomiming just how the bust went down. Yes, Billy was a criminal genius, with his child's detective kit and the unfaltering support of his two peers.

And of course, there wouldn't be much of a story if there didn't come a day when all that changes. And it does. Billy grows up and goes to college, leaving Caroline and Fenton alone in this little town to realize just how much they had relied upon the Boy Detective's brilliance. They try to solve one final case on their own...

Thus, their lives are changed forever.

With all the potential to become yet another "shocking" modern-day morality tale, author Joe Meno takes this simple tale and deliberately twists the internal logic of the book.
Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
I'm not sure I've ever read anything like "the boy detective fails". When I read the first few pages I was unsure, but it quickly pulled me in. But its lure is through its charm, its creativity, its emotionality. It feels dreamlike, without being over the top. It's soft, but creepy, but warm. The world seems fuzzy, full of strangeness . The characters are lovable, interesting, intriguing and draw you through the books mysteries. It works on some serious issues, and in ways that you don't usually hear these issues approached, they kind of creep up on you, but in a good way.

I tried to describe it to a friend. I said something like "Well, if you took The Tick, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Lenore, X-Files, Hardy Boys, Girl Interupted, and Catcher in the Rye and mixed it up, this book is what you get." Just go read it.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is exactly how it happens. I purchase the Kindle edition. I am drawn to the childish style. I read a third. The boy detective has such odd days I find. And that is when the question occurs to me. Is this indeed the plan? Or has the passage to Kindle gone majorly wrong?

This is when I do the following. I prudently consult reader reviews. I discover this. There is a decoder ring. It is to be consulted from time to time. Aha! But I don't have one. There may also be mysterious words in the margins. Aha! But I have no margins. Disappointingly, Mr. X and Mrs. Y make no mention of the chapter numbers. Neither does Mr. Pluto. Some are out of sequence. The boy detective will find that odd. So do I. But then, I am not a detective. I am not a boy.

What do I make of that, Mr.Kindle?

Puzzling.

What to do? Girls in pink coats and yellow soccer uniforms constantly wipe their noses. Hmm. It is for the boy detective to solve. But the boy detective sees no heads, even in the spangled light of night. Hmm.

Why oh why did the boy detective's sister die?

Why oh why?

Don't buy the Kindle edition.
It will add to your whys.
Spring for the real deal.
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Format: Paperback
it would probably be close to this book. This book is very bizarre, but still tragic and moving. This book is basically about a former acclaimed boy detective,Billy Argo who solved serveral mysteries as a child alongside his best friend Fenton & younger sister Caroline. After Billy goes to college Caroline kills herself. Billy can't understand why this happened and tries to kill himself, unsuccessful, his parents have him institutionalized. Billy is released 10 years later and tries to adjust to the world. Billy gets a job and befriends 2 young outcasts and gets caught up in several bizarre mysteries along the way falling in love for the first time. The book is sweet, odd, and sad sometimes all at the same time. The book is unlike anything I've ever read, I can't wait to read other books by Joe Meno.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ah, the greats of childhood literature: the Hardy Boys, the Great Brain, Danny Dunn and others. For quick puzzles, the go to was Encyclopedia Brown, the kid who'd read the whole encyclopedia and used logic and observation to solve minor mysteries. As much as any character, I believe he serves as the template for Billy Argo, the title character in Joe Meno's The Boy Detective Fails.

Unlike Encyclopedia Brown, however, Billy solves some big mysteries, including ones involving murder, arson and kidnapping. More importantly, unlike Encyclopedia Brown, Billy grows up into an adulthood that is less than pleasant. Tormented by the suicide of his admiring sister, Billy spends a decade institutionalized and is later released into a halfway house of sorts. He will earn a living as a telemarketer for a wig company and spend many hours in a drug induced haze.

Mysteries and villains still abound, however, but the biggest one is the hardest to solve: why his sister died. Old adversaries unleash dastardly plans against Billy and his city, but often they are more inept than dangerous (there are exceptions, however). And into Billy's life will come a pretty shoplifter who offers Billy a chance for happiness.

The Boy Detective Fails is a strange story, often amusing and often absurd. Almost every character in the book is eccentric in some way, making the whole novel surreal. Fortunately, the oddness is never too distracting: even at its most weird, the book still grabs your attention. For those who grew up reading the types of books I mentioned above, this will be a fun, nostalgic read.
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