Book Review: The Ghost and Max Monroe, Case #1: The Magic Box

20674714Title: The Ghost and Max Monroe, Case #1: The Magic Box

Author: L.M. Falcone

Genre:  Children’s Books, Fantasy, Mystery

Age Group: Children

Rating: 3 stars

Purchase: Amazon

In this first title in the detective fiction series by L. M. Falcone, ten-year-old Max Monroe is intrigued to discover that the carriage house behind his grandpa’s home was once the office of the Monroe Detective Agency. Then he learns the agency had belonged to his grandpa’s dead brother, Larry. But Max didn’t know he had a great-uncle. “Well, he’s dead,” says Grandpa Harry, “but his ghost still haunts the detective agency.” It seems Uncle Larry died of a broken heart because he “never solved one measly case.” However, a surprise phone call from a magician named Marty the Magnificent with an offer of a detective job seems like the second chance Larry has been begging for. Except, Larry is a ghost — he can’t work a case in the real world. But Max can! With Larry’s help, of course. The offbeat idea of a boy detective with a ghost as a sidekick provides this story with lots of opportunities for inside jokes and misunderstandings. This is a terrific chapter book series for newly independent readers who are ready for something more challenging than a first reader, with simple sentences, humorous dialogue and very short chapters, designed to make the reading experience less daunting. The limited black-and-white illustrations (around one per chapter) by Kim Smith provide details that enrich the story. The series provides a great introduction to the mystery genre, perfect for honing critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.

The Ghost and Max Monroe, Case #1: The Magic Box, is a quirky little mystery. It starts out with ten-year-old Max Monroe who discovers the Monroe Detective Agency in his grandpa’s backyard. The agency is haunted by Uncle Larry, his grandpa’s dead brother and former detective. When a case shows up about a missing girl, the ghost of Uncle Larry, and Max, team up to save the day. They head over to the birthday party of the missing girl, and try to find her, talking to possible suspects and finding out what happened to make her dissapear.

The story moved quickly – too quickly. Sometimes I couldn’t follow, and heck, if I can’t, then there’s no way a child can keep up. It hopped from here to there, and the chapter titles were annoying too. They didn’t look different enough from the regular font, and they predicted what would happen next, taking away some of the suspense.

The illustrations were a nice addition though. They looked nice as well, so the art definitely isn’t the issue here.

The characters were flat – uncle Larry, grandpa and Max basically all had the same personality – and the plot was too simplistic, leaving too many things unexplained. Like how the ghost only showed up now, why no one asked for him in years and why Max had never heard of him before.

All in all, not too bad, but I think the flat characters and the often too rushed pace might be a deal-breaker for some kids. A good idea for a plot though, to set up a team of a kid and a dead detective. Maybe if the next books have more character development, and slow down just a little, they’ll be more entertaining.

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