When a missing surfboard proves to have hidden depths, twelve-year-old super-sleuth Steve Brixton must go undercover—and underwater—to tackle a puzzling tangle of mysteries.
Steve Brixton’s finally gotten a hang of this super-sleuth thing. After a few months of busting bad guys he finally has his own office—even if it’s a bit small, and outside, and okay, used to be a doghouse.
So when someone asks him to help track down a board stolen by a local surf gang, it’s just a matter of slipping into a neon wetsuit and blending in with the surfers—right?
But when the assignment goes all wrong, Steve is going to have to test his wits against pirate smugglers, thick-necked goons, and a sixth-grader who just wants his gym shorts back—all with the help of the tips and tricks he learned from his beloved Bailey Brothers books, of course!
STEVE BRIXTON, private detective, age twelve and freshly back from retirement, was reading in his office. Until last week, what was now Steve’s office had been just a large doghouse in Steve Brixton’s backyard, but the Brixtons did not own a dog and never had. The previous tenants had a Saint Bernard named Bandy, and when they’d moved away, they’d taken the dog but left the doghouse. Steve’s mom had been using it for storage until Steve had convinced her that it was pretty much begging to be converted into the headquarters of a world-famous detective agency.
Steve had swept the place out and painted the walls white. He’d hung up a map of Ocean Park and the surrounding coast, and he’d bought a small box of map tacks to help him keep track of crime waves. (Right now the map featured a single red pin, marking the location of the office in which the map now hung, but Steve was ready with more pins of many colors, just in case.) A small card table was Steve’s desk. There were two tiny wooden chairs. In the evenings, light came from a lamp powered by a bright orange extension cord that ran across the backyard and up through Steve’s bedroom window.
The space was a bit cramped, but it was clean and bright, and as long as you crouched, it could fit one comfortably—and up to two uncomfortably.
The best part: Steve had hired a professional sign painter to letter his name where the dog’s name used to be—right above the door, or doorway, since there really wasn’t a door, just a rectangular hole in the wall for a dog to enter and exit—and it looked like this:
And so, on a Thursday evening, Steve put his feet on his desk and read. Outside, the dark sky was shot through with peaches and pinks, and the office glowed in the dusk light. Steve’s desk lamp was still unlit. He tilted back in his chair.
Behind Steve’s head, on shelves he’d installed himself, were the shiny red spines of the books collectively known as the Bailey Brothers Mysteries. The Bailey Brothers Mysteries related the heart-pounding, rip-roaring adventures of Shawn and Kevin Bailey, teenage brothers, straight-A students, and red-blooded, corn-fed supersleuths. The books were by Steve’s favorite author and mortal enemy, MacArthur Bart, a man who had turned to a life of crime after a long bout of writer’s block. Steve had uncovered his hero’s villainy when he’d discovered The Ghostwriter Secret—and although Steve had foiled one of Bart’s schemes, the man had gotten away. It still bugged Steve that Bart was a free man. Even now Bart was no doubt incubating his sinister schemes in some dark and teeming fold of America’s criminal underbelly.
Still, his books were pretty ace.
And the fact was this: Bart and the Bailey Brothers had taught Steve everything he knew about the art of detection. Steve had read and reread the fifty-eight Bailey Brothers mysteries, plus he was deeply familiar with The Bailey Brothers’ Detective Handbook. The handbook, which compiled the accumulated professional wisdom of Shawn and Kevin Bailey, was pretty much full-to-bursting with tricks and tips for gumshoes of all stripes. There were chapters like “Useful Morse Code” ( . . . --- . . . and -.-. .- -. -. .. - . . . .- .-.. . . .) and “How to Outwit Hypnotists” (sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” backward).
Right now, the handbook was lying open on Steve’s desk while he read Bailey Brothers #25: The Clue of the Caves in the Cove. The story was at a good part:
Fair-haired Kevin Bailey opened up the throttle and expertly piloted the Deducer VII across the rough seas. “Keep an eye out for the Dark and Stormy! Her black hull will be hard to spot in this pea soup!” he shouted above the roar of the speedboat’s motor.
“Aye, aye!” cried dark-haired Shawn, who was manning the Deducer VII’s powerful search lamp. “Joseph Tanaka and his smugglers will never get away.”
Their stout chum, Ernest Plumly, was looking green. “I shouldn’t have eaten such a big lunch,” he groaned. “I don’t know if I can ever look at a roast beef sandwich again.”
“Somebody write that down!” chuckled Shawn.
“If he keeps that pledge, Albert’s Delicatessen will soon be out of business!” grinned Kevin.
“Don’t bet on it, fellows,” Ernest rejoined with a rueful smile. “I didn’t say anything about ham sandwiches.”
The boys all laughed.
“Scampering squirrels!” exclaimed eagle-eyed Shawn, pointing straight ahead. “There she is! The Dark and Stormy!”
The smugglers’ ship emerged from the fog.
Kevin got on the Deducer VII’s bullhorn as he slowed the boat. “Give it up, Tanaka!” he warned. “Three Coast Guard cutters are right behind us.”
The hatch of the criminals’ craft opened up. Joseph Tanaka popped up and shrieked, “You don’t have any evidence, Baileys!” Laughing, the swarthy ringleader dumped a wooden crate into the ocean!
Quick as a flash, Shawn Bailey, who was an excellent skin diver and proficient in aquatic lifesaving techniques, dove into the choppy waters. With a few powerful strokes, he made his way toward the Dark and Stormy, then disappeared beneath the swells.
Many tense seconds passed as Kevin and Ernest waited for the brave sleuth to resurface.
“Sure seems like he’s been down there a while,” Ernest worried.
“These are rougher seas than he’s used to swimming,” Kevin fretted.
Then, all of a sudden, Shawn Bailey’s head broke the surface of the water. He was grinning and holding a clear bag. “Here’s your evidence, Tanaka!” he exulted. He peered at the contents of the bag and read the label. “I happen to know that these are controlled pharmaceuticals! I overheard my doctor mention this particular type of medicine to a nurse last week, when I went in for my annual physical!”
“Blast you, Baileys!” Tanaka raged. The smuggler’s long black braid flapped behind him in the wind, and his gold earrings shone in the light of the Deducer’s lamp. “Too bad you’ll never make it back to shore.”
“What do you mean?” Kevin queried on the bullhorn. “The Deducer VII’s shipshape!”
“That may be so,” snarled Tanaka, “but she’s carrying a time bomb!”
Kevin and Ernest looked at each other in terror. Suddenly the ticking noise they’d heard in the boathouse made sense!
Steve turned the page just as a large figure blocked the doorway of the Brixton Brothers Detective Agency, plunging the office into darkness.
Mac Barnett is the author of the Brixton Brother series and several picture books, including Guess Again! and Chloe and the Lion (both illustrated by Adam Rex), and the New York Times bestseller Extra Yarn. He’s on the board of directors of 826LA, a nonprofit writing center, and founded the Echo Park Time Travel Mart, a convenience store for time travelers. Mac lives in Oakland, California.
Matt Myers has illustrated more than a dozen books, including The Most Terrible of All, A Dog Named Doug, the New York Times bestseller Battle Bunny, and The Infamous Ratsos, a Theodor Seuss Geisel honor book. He lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. You can see more illustrations and fine art at MyersPaints.com.
"Like the three earlier volumes of the Brixton Brothers series, this chapter book takes the adventure and plotting of an old-school (think Hardy Boys) series mystery and overlays it with deadpan, offbeat humor. The occasional full-page drawings help define the characters, settings, and tone of the story. Wildly improbable and reliably entertaining."