Thursday, December 14, 2006

Review: Half Moon Investigations

Eoin Colfer's Half Moon Investigations is, apparently, a deeply divisive book. If you read the Amazon reviews, you'll find readers either loved it or hated it. I'm in the first camp and I'll try to explain why in this review.

Twelve-year-old Fletcher Moon is a detective in Lock, Ireland. Dubbed "Half Moon" by his peers because he's small for his age, Fletcher is generally considered a bit of a nerd. Needless to say, Fletcher is surprised when the most popular ten-year-old girl in his school, April Deveraux, hires him to catch a thief--a thief she's sure is Red Sharkey.

Red Sharkey is one of the Sharkey kids, a family known their red hair, as well as for theft, fraud, and other petty crime. When Fletcher is framed for arson by the novel's villain, he and Red become allies in a race to solve the crime before they themselves are put away.

Along the way, Red and Fletcher (disguised as Watson Sharkey with a fake tan, dyed red hair, an earring, and a tattoo) investigate a group of ten-year-old girls who've banded together as Les Jeunes Etudiantes, the Lock police force, and Red's own family.

I enjoyed Half Moon Investigations primarily for its language. It's written in a classic noir style, with metaphors and similes that outdo Raymond Chandler and are laugh-out-loud funny. Here are a few examples:

  • "April and May stared each other down for a long moment, like two Manga girls about to throw lightning bolts."
  • "His voice was impossibly deep and smooth. Like someone had mixed the bass guy from a soul band and the guy who does the movie trailers together in a vat of treacle."
  • "Emotions flicked across Red's brow, as though his brain was channel hopping. He went through amazement, fury, and sadness among others, eventually settling on a blank expression that reminded me of the one Mel Gibson did in Braveheart, just before he cut some English guy's throat."

That last one is my favorite.

Fletcher and Red are well-drawn characters, reminding the reader to look twice at a person: Fletcher has more guts than his nerdy demeanor suggests and Red is trying desperately to shake his family's reputation. Their unlikely friendship sets Half Moon Investigations apart.

Reviewers who dislike Half Moon Investigations do so because they found the plot and the villain's motives unbelievable. But the book is supposed to be a fun romp, a play on genre. It's more a fantasy, than realistic fiction. Read in this way, Half Moon Investigations delights, entertains, and reminds the reader to avoid lazy stereotypes.

Half Moon Investigations is best suited for readers ages eight to thirteen.