12 January 2011

Whispering Meadows, Den of Thieves

Crime and misbehavior in Encyclopedia Brown’s home town of Idaville tends to come from three sources:

  • Criminals passing through town, or recently out of jail.
  • New kids trying too hard to show off.
  • Bugs Meany and his Tigers.
The bulk of the local young population—the kids obsessed with teeth or animals or lacrosse or whatever—come across as well-meaning and good-hearted. Trouble comes from outsiders, and the community’s recognized bullies.

I found Whispering Meadows, the home town of young sleuths Max Finder and Alison Santos, to be a more treacherous place. The first volume of this series, by Liam O’Donnell and Michael Cho, contains ten short, comics-style mysteries originally published in OWL Magazine.

In three stories, the culprits turn out to be trusted employees of the damaged businesses. In a couple more, one friend victimizes another. Several stories contain red herrings as the guilty person tries to frame an innocent bystander. And whenever there’s a contest, the kids compete in cut-throat fashion.

Punishment for the transgressions tends to be mild. Of the ten cases, only one involves action by legal authorities; in another, a summer camp sends some kids home early. But a more typical dénouement in the back of the book is along the lines of: “Jeremy apologized for breaking Sally’s stereo, and for making the scene look like Hector did it, and after a while they all became friends again.”

Which might make sense, since a lot of the kids in Whispering Meadows have a common interest in bad behavior. In the next story, Hector might well be vandalizing someone’s bike while Sally blames Angela for beating her in the spelling bee.

Whispering Meadows sounds like a horrible place to grow up.

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