Robertson is a favorite author of my childhood, and over the years I’ve gathered a complete collection of his novels for young readers with one exception. There are four books featuring the Carson Street Detective Agency. The first is “The Mystery of Burnt Hill,” and sadly that book is impossible to find, there are no available copies at any price. Fortunately, the second book, above, is easier to locate, and a great read.
Neil Lambert and Swede Larson are two teenage boys living in a small town south of Princeton, NJ. Most people think their detective agency, located in the loft of the barn/garage of Neil’s home is an amusing activity for the boys, but their success in solving the Burnt Hill case gave them some credentials. Not that there’s much call for their services, but when Ginny Haggard arrives to hire them one summer day, they are happy to take her case. Ginny had borrowed her brother’s bicycle to go to the soda shop in town, and it had been stolen there while she was inside. This is a surprising crime in sleepy Belleville, and Neil and Swede get on their own bikes to look for the missing one. Their quest takes them to the local fairgrounds, where a raffle lands them with an unusual prize, a baby pig. Getting the pig home becomes a challenge, and when the pig gets loose in Eckleberry’s Drug Store where the crime occurred, a funny scramble is the result.
Neil and Swede find the missing bike almost by accident at the train station in a nearby town, and that leads them to the home of a man named Von Brugge who moved to Belleville recently and has a business doing taxidermy and acting as a buyer of stuffed animals and birds from other countries for museums. Von Brugge had hired an assistant, but the man disappeared suddenly. Could he be connected to the stolen bike? Neil and Swede make friends with Von Brugge, who seems a harmless soul, and learn more about his business. They find three stuffed barn owls in his front display window fascinating, especially when the taxidermist explains that one of them is hooked up to a barn owl recording that’s loud and scary. Neil and Swede get permission to borrow the owl for some practical jokes. Someone else is very interested in those stuffed owls, though, a man from New York City, who is connected to a jewel smuggling operation. The plot thickens, and the boys soon find themselves in deep trouble from the man’s criminal henchmen.
This book is fun and exciting, a good mystery, a thriller, and with a healthy dose of humor. The characters are appealing and realistic, and I recommend it highly.