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It Happened on a Train

Book #3 of Brixton Brothers
Illustrated by Adam Rex

Steve Brixton is in retirement, and not even grand theft auto can bring him back for one last job. Period, the end, that’s that. Right???

After finding out that his favorite author (and author of the definitive Bailey Brothers Guidebook) was not the man Steve thought he was, the Brixton Brothers detective agency is officially out of business. Steve has a new job now: taking out the trash for five bucks a week.

But when he and his best chum Dana take a train trip down the California coast, he’s caught up in a mystery that involves a fleet of stolen automobiles, a vanishing girl, and a phantom train car. For fans who want their Hardy Boys with a sprinkle of laugh-out-loud humor.

It Happened on a Train CHAPTER I

IT WAS WEDNESDAY EVENING, a.k.a. trash night. Steve Brixton, seventh grader, formerly of the Brixton Brothers Detective Agency, plodded along his driveway, dragging a maroon bin behind him. The bin’s wheels rumbled and popped as they rolled over pebbles on the blacktop. This week the Brixton family’s bin was very full. The lid would not close tightly; it bounced up and down, making an irregular, slow clapping sound. And the trash was heavy—Steve could feel the can’s weight in his elbow, and he kept switching the arm he used to drag it: right, then left, and back again. He sighed. Tonight was a particularly difficult trash night, and that’s because the garbage bin contained fifty-nine shiny, red-backed books: a complete set of the Bailey Brothers Mysteries, a series of detective novels that until a week and a half ago had been Steve’s favorite books of all time.

Steve pulled the bin down off the curb. It hit the street hard, and its lid bounced open like a clam’s shell, revealing the can’s contents. Steve stood underneath a streetlamp. Its orange bulb flickered and hummed, even though the sun was just now setting and there was still plenty of light in the sky.

There they were, neatly stacked in a cardboard box atop a week’s worth of kitchen scraps and dental floss: Bailey Brothers #1 to #58, and of course The Bailey Brothers’ Detective Handbook, which was jam-packed with Shawn and Kevin Bailey’s Real Crime-Solving Tips and Tricks. (Shawn and Kevin Bailey, as pretty much everybody knows, were the sons of world-famous detective Harris Bailey and the heroes of the Bailey Brothers books—they had their own crime lab and fixed their own cars and were basically the acest sleuths around.) The handbook had chapters full of things every serious gumshoe would need to know: stuff like “Tailing Baddies,” “Making Your Own Blowgun,” and “Modus Operandi, Portrait Parlé, and Other Funny Foreign Phrases for the American Sleuth.”

Steve stood and stared at his books. He looked around. Identical maroon bins stood like sentries outside every home on the street. The neighborhood was quiet. Assured that he was alone, Steve reached out and picked up a book: Bailey Brothers #15: The Phantom of Liar’s Bluff, which started like this:
Photograph © Shawn Harris

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.

Adam Rex is the New York Times bestselling author and illustrator of Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich. His other books include The True Meaning of Smekday, which was made into the hit animated movie HomeMoonday; and School’s First Day of School, illustrated by Christian Robinson. He also illustrated the Brixton Brothers series, Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale ProblemChloe and the Lion, and How This Book Was Made, all by Mac Barnett, and Chu’s Day, by Neil Gaiman. He lives in Tucson, Arizona. Visit him at or follow him on Twitter @MrAdamRex.

"Barnett’s sly and often silly Hardy Boy parody chugs along with plenty of laughs and enough honest-to-gosh mystery to please any lover of boy detective fiction. Rex’s black-and-white pencils (which also parody the Hardy tales) are still a fine match for the goofiness. Mention of the next adventure at mystery’s close will make Brixton fans smile."--Kirkus Reviews

"An amusing addition to the Brixton Brothers series."—Booklist

More books from this author: Mac Barnett

More books from this illustrator: Adam Rex

More books in this series: Brixton Brothers