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The Boy Detective Fails (Punk Planet Books) [Paperback]

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Item Number 249062  
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Item description for The Boy Detective Fails (Punk Planet Books) by Joe Meno...

As children Billy Argo and his sister Caroline solve a series of mysteries using a detective kit, but as an adult, Billy faces an uncertain future after his sister commits suicide and he finds himself trying to connect with the world again after a stay in the mental hospital.

Publishers Description

In the twilight of a mysterious childhood full of wonder, Billy Argo, boy detective, is brokenhearted to find that his younger sister and crime-solving partner, Caroline, has committed suicide. Ten years later, Billy, age thirty, returns from an extended stay at St. Vitus' Hospital for the Mentally Ill to discover the world full of unimagi-nable strangeness: office buildings vanish without reason, small animals turn up without their heads, and cruel villains ride city buses to complete their evil schemes.

Lost within this unwelcoming place, Billy finds the companionship of two lonely, extraordinary children, Effie and Gus Mumford--one a science fair genius, the other a charming, silent bully. With a nearly forgotten bravery, Billy treads from the unendurable boredom of a telemarketing job, stumbles into the awkward beauty of a desperate pickpocket named Penny Maple, and confronts the nearly impossible solution to the mystery of his sister's death. Along a path laden with hidden clues and codes that dare the reader to help Billy decipher the mysteries he encounters, the boy detective may learn the greatest secret of all: the necessity of the unknown.

Kirkus Reviews,June 15, 2006
"What happens when a Hardy Boy grows up?
Mood is everything here, and Meno tunes it like a master, even though such a task initially appears impossible. Billy Argo, resident boy detective of his small New Jersey burg, seems to have inherited the aura of brains, fearlessness and rigid moral compass that always served the likes of Encyclopedia Brown in such good stead. Billy solves crimes and foils villains without breaking a sweat, aided by younger sister Caroline and heavyset friend Fenton. Their successes are trumpeted in newspaper headlines straight out of kids' adventure books ('Boy Detective Solves Fatal Orphanage Arson'), prompting suspicions that what the author has in mind is a long and ironic riff on children's fiction. But the book takes a dark turn as the years pass. Billy continues solving crimes and generally being a prodigy ('College Now For Boy Detective'), but Caroline slips into depression and ultimately commits suicide. Her brother winds up in an asylum as a result, not re-entering the world until he's 30. This is the point at which Meno, a tricky postmodernist who likes to embed separate story capsules on blank pages and leave nonsense words in the margins, might be expected to throw the curtain back, showing that our hero was crazy all along, no crimes were solved and his whole life was a lie. Instead, the author gives Billy a gallery of rogues to combat and even sends him to investigate the Convocation of Evil at a local hotel ('Featured Panel: To Wear a Mask?'). Meno sets himself a complicated task, marooning his straight-arrow, pulp-fiction protagonist in a world uglier than the Bobbsey Twins ever faced but refusing to go for satire. Instead, the author takes his compulsive investigator at face value. A full-tilt collision of wish-fulfillment and unrequited desires that's thrilling, yet almost unbearably sad."

BOOKLIST, July 2006
Comedic, imaginative, empathic, and romantic, Meno, whose diverse works of fiction include Hairstyles of the Damned (2004) and Bluebirds Used to Croon in the Choir (2005), is particularly attuned to the intensity of childhood and its lifelong resonance. In this cartoony and dreamlike novel, Billy Argo of Gotham, New Jersey, receives a True-Life Junior Detective Kit for his tenth birthday, and in no time, the gifted boy detective becomes front-page news as he thwarts comic-book villains with the help of his younger sister, Caroline. But Caroline commits suicide, and Billy's grief is so profound he is institutionalized. Emerging from a mythic sleep at age 30, Billy--smart, kind, and wistful--ends up living in a bizarre halfway house and working a spooky job. It’s always raining, buildings vanish into thin air, evildoers brazenly conspire, and Billy befriends precocious sister and brother misfits and falls in love with a pickpocket. Wizardly Meno entwines make-believe with emotional authenticity to create a playful yet plangent fairy tale-like satire, in which detection acquires metaphysical dimensions. Atmospheric, archetypal, and surpassingly sweet, Meno's finely calibrated fantasy investigates the precincts of grief, our longing to combat chaos with reason, and the menace and magic concealed within everyday life.
YA/M: Meno's young characters trying to do good in a strange and scary world will captivate teens who like a mix of fantasy and emotional realism.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   328
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 1.25" Width: 5.5" Height: 7.5"
Weight:   0.7 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Sep 1, 2006
Publisher   Akashic Books
ISBN  1933354100  
ISBN13  9781933354101  

Availability  14 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 20, 2016 03:37.
Usually ships within one to two business days from Chambersberg, PA.
Orders shipping to an address other than a confirmed Credit Card / Paypal Billing address may incur and additional processing delay.

More About Joe Meno

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Joe Meno is the founder of BrickJournal, a print and online LEGO(r) fan magazine. He has organized and run LEGO fan events, acted as an advisor on LEGO projects, and helped design LEGO sets.

Joe Meno currently resides in Chicago, in the state of Illinois.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Contemporary
2Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Literary
3Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General
4Books > Subjects > Mystery & Thrillers > General
5Books > Subjects > Mystery & Thrillers > Mystery > General

Reviews - What do customers think about The Boy Detective Fails (Punk Planet Books)?

Successful rendering of apathy, failure and meds.  Jun 26, 2008
I found this book via McSweeney's and was not disappointed. It was beautifully rendered. I am usually disinclined to enjoy postmodern gimmicks like footnotes (ala House of Leaves)but in this case they suited the boy detective well--they provide the reader with mysteries to sort out reminescent of decoder rings and cereal box cyphers.

There is a short film on youtube that nicely protrays the first chapter of the book, if anyone is inclined to view it. It appears to be professionally made.

In short, this is the book I am giving to my grad school friends this Christmas and I know it will not disappoint!
Emo mystery moody and enchanting  Jan 25, 2008
This book was recommended to me by a friend and her brief plot summary was enough to make me seek it out. It was my first introduction to Joe Meno, and I quickly read the book, easily becoming enthralled with the story of the boy detective continuing to mourn the loss of his sister while trying to make his way into adulthood. As other reviews have mentioned, the book has a 'decoder' on the back flap, and there are several puzzles at the end of the book along with a fairly distracting coded word placed at the bottom of more than half of the pages. The decoder is possible to figure out fairly easily without actually having to cut out and assemble it. As for the words at the bottom, if you decode that (look to the copyright page for the key) it creates a mini-story that ends in the author encouraging you to email to receive another puzzle or message. I emailed a couple of days ago and have yet to get a response. The book was a solid recommendation, one that I have since passed on to others.
Enormous Games  Dec 11, 2007
Joe Meno's "The Boy Detective Fails" is not really what you expect it to be, even if you've already been told what to expect. It is not really what the back cover says or really what the reviews say or even really what I say.

To say that it is heartbreaking is an understatement. To say that it is beautiful does not even begin to describe the enormous games it will cause your heart to play with your ribcage. To say that it is charming and mournful and funny as hell only begins to describe it.

What "The Boy Detective Fails" is, however, is important. Contemporary literature has seen things LIKE this novel, but it has not seen this novel. Meno's contemporaries (are they his influences? are they influenced by him?) perhaps have shared the dedication to detail Meno insists upon.

"The Boy Detective Fails" is so importantly universal that one cannot help but feel that one may, in fact, be a failed boy detective. The hyperstylized creation of this novel is impressive, to say the least; the craft and attention to detail rivals even the most canonized writers. The book is flawless - each word is crucial; each chapter is affecting; each visual design is gorgeous.

More importantly, "The Boy Detective Fails" is one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful emotional experiences one can have reading a novel. You'll fall in love, you'll fall out of love, you'll fall into sadness, you'll fall. To be exhausted at the end of the novel should not be surprising; you've been through a lot along the way.

The decoder ring attached to the back of the novel is not a gimmick. It's even entirely possible to make it through the novel without once using the ring (though you'll miss one of the book's most heartbreaking moments). But the fact that Meno has managed so subtly to take the experience of "The Boy Detective Fails" outside of the novel is fascinating, affecting and laudable.

Someday, when we talk about the American pantheon of 21st century contemporary literature, we will mention Joe Meno. And, if we do not, the conversation will not be complete.
90% psychosis, 110% great story......Wait....  Sep 21, 2007
Parts of this book still escape my grasp, but I know i got the gist of it.

If anyone should start reading through this book, get really confused, and consider putting it down, DON'T!!!

The first 4/5 of the book seemed to be an incredible exploration into a mentally ill mind, somewhat ignoring the self-proclaimed story and leading the reader to believe that, like most of the elements occuring in Billy's world, the big mystery doesn't actually exist.

It was upon completion, however, that a mystery we weren't even sure existed exposed itself to be something so confounding, the entire genre of the story seems to change.

Sorry if I seem vague here, but I wanna avoid spoilers.

Also, if you're a big fan of puzzles, or the kinds of stories that lead up to a completely unexpected ending that, upon retrospect, was pretty obvious with all the clues laying around, then this is the book for you.
Boy Detective Fails, Joe Meno Doesn't  Jul 28, 2007
This is a good read. Fans of Joe Meno won't be disappointed, and those unfamiliar with the author will become devotees. This book is funny, sad in parts, and very sweet. It's the adult version of reading those sweet and sad books from childhood.

Someone also commented on the decoder ring that comes with the book. You don't have to decode anything to enjoy the book. I read a library copy and so I couldn't cut out the decoder, and the book was still excellent.

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