In this first entry of a projected series, L.M. Falcone offers up a light comic mystery. Max Monroe is staying with his grandfather, Harry, when he hears crying in Harry’s coach house. The weeper turns out to be the ghost of Max’s great uncle, Larry, a failed detective. “The old poop never solved one measly case,” Harry explains, so Max takes it upon himself to restore his great uncle’s self-respect along with the reputation of the Monroe Detective Agency. The first case involves a five-year-old who disappears from a magician’s Magic Box during her birthday party. Thanks to Max’s efficient questioning, observations, and powers of reasoning, the case comes to a successful conclusion.
The book features a quick, linear narrative with dialogue and action that propel every line. Slightly wacky, irreverent humour spices up the story: Harry eats his cornflakes with squirts of whipped cream; Larry weeps and moans extravagantly or makes mild jokes (“Stink eye? Better than pink eye”). Max’s ability to see Larry in his ghostly state is given a comically outlandish explanation (“I lowered my vibratory level to match your frequency,” Larry explains). Humorously provocative headings add momentum, teasers for the content to follow (“What Kind of a Dork Wears Shoes with a Bathing Suit?”).
The superficial silliness is entertaining, but Falcone’s presentation of the case is a straightforward introduction to the concepts of evidence, interpretation, and reasoning. The final two pages, featuring a game of Spot the Difference, exercise the reader’s own powers of close observation. Though not overly original, The Ghost and Max Monroe is a serviceable contribution for an age group that is often overlooked.