Caroline Carlson’s series about The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates is an absolute favorite in our house, so Lilah was hoping very much for a fourth book in the series (though I was pretty sure at the end of three that Carlson had wrapped it up). We are still hoping for future adventures with Hilary Westfield, but we were both delighted with The World’s Greatest Detective.
The Westing Game was one of my favorites as a child, and The World’s Greatest Detective reminds me a bit of that book, in a good, non-derivative way. I was initially disappointed that Carlson had chosen to make a boy the protagonist since she’s so good at crafting strong female heroes, but Toby grew on me, and his sidekick, Ivy, is a well-drawn, complex character in her own right, and I enjoyed their growing friendship and partnership.
Toby lives with his uncle, Gabriel Montrose, a detective on Detectives’ Row, where the most famous detective is Hugh Abernathy, whose exploits are memorialized in the magazine The Sphinx, which Toby reads religiously. Uncle Gabriel is the last relative to take Toby in after the mysterious death of his parents. If he can’t make it work with Uncle Gabriel, it’s off to the orphanage with him. An invitation arrives for Uncle Gabriel to participate in a contest to determine who is the world’s greatest detective, hosted by Hugh Abernathy. Uncle Gabriel hates Hugh Abernathy, and he has a client abroad to deal with, so he refuses. With stacks of past-due bills and the $10,000 prize money in mind, Toby decides to crash the contest. He spends the weekend with a variety of memorable detectives, and of course nearly everyone has something to hide (including Toby, who is pretending that Uncle Gabriel is busy thinking in his room while Toby is doing the legwork). He meets Ivy, a budding detective in her own right, and when Hugh Abernathy turns up dead, the two children team up.
This was a really fun mystery. Lilah and I were riveted and surprised by numerous plot twists. Toby and Ivy are endearing, interesting children, and their investigative efforts are great fun. The mystery unfolds at a fast clip with lots of fun supporting characters. The ending leaves the door open for a sequel or even a series, which we are both enthusiastic about. It makes me want to start reading Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes with Lilah, and obviously The Westing Game, which we somehow have never read together.
Source disclosure: This book was a gift.