Egypt’s Fire

Pixel+Ink. (The Curious League of Detectives and Thieves: Bk. 1). Jun. 2022. 352p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781645951056.
Gr 5-8–Eleven-year-old orphaned John Boarhog, secretly living in the New York Museum of Natural History, is accused of stealing a valuable ruby from an Egyptian exhibit in this fun and often absurd middle grade mystery debut. John is discovered when he’s found unconscious next to the Egyptian display case with the ruby in his pocket. An anonymous narrator recounts John’s desperate efforts to prove his innocence. He’s aided in his quest for justice by the incomparable Inspector Toadius McGee; actress Polly “Pickles’’ Cronopolis, McGee’s unrequited love; and the Great Goatinee, a cat burglar and bad magician. The real thief is the Mauve Moth, a criminal mastermind who, to John’s disbelief, might be his mother who is thought to have died two years before. The plot is fun in a chaotic way, with double-crossings, plot twists, and outrageous characters and situations. John and company get mixed up in a Broadway show, a speakeasy brawl, and are kidnapped by the nasty head of the Jersey Home for Boys and its bullying orphans. It ends with a fantastical chase scene involving bananas, horses, hansom carriages, rickshaws, dogs, smooching teenagers, a fire truck, and dumpsters. It’s not all nonstop comedy though. More sober moments reveal John’s struggle to cope with the loneliness of losing his mother. John and Inspector McGee are brown-skinned, most other characters are white.
VERDICT Readers who don’t take the plot too seriously will enjoy this fast-moving cinematic madcap detective mystery, the first in a series.

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