The Boy Detective Fails by Joe Meno

An Absurd 2 Stars  


^^ That was basically what I was thinking by the end of this book.  My mind was blank and I found myself absently blinking at my kindle.  I couldn’t tell if the book was endearing or it had a stupefying effect.  After several minutes of mindless blinking, I went with stupefying.

While at times it was cute and clever, the majority of the time it was suffering from an identity crisis.  One part general fiction, one part satire, one part mystery, one part fantasy, and one part absurd.  The Boy Detective Fails tells the story of Billy Argo, the Boy Detective.  As a child, he partook in many a wonderful adventures with his sister Caroline and his friend Fenton.  As a team (well, mostly by himself) they solved many crimes with names that could have been taken from a Hardy Boys or an Encyclopedia Brown tale.  As the Boy Detective grows up, he leave for college.  While he is gone, his sisters tries to solve crimes without him.  For reasons unknown to the Boy Detective, his sister, after multiple tries, successfully commits suicide.  As a result, Fenton gains 300 pounds and takes to the talk show circuit and the Boy Detective tries to follow his sisters lead.  He eventually lands in a psychiatric hospital where he is released after 10 years.

The story is told within a world of magical realism where there is a faceless man/bad guy can make buildings simply disappear.  The tone of the story is absurd as it told in the style of a Hardy Boy novel on crack.   When I initially started the book, I was amused.  The narrators voice felt similar to that in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.  In both stories, the world is explored through the eyes of a person with mental illness.  While in the Curious Incident, you were well aware that the Main Character’s perception was skewed by his Autism, The Boy Detective does not overtly tell you that his experiences fall outside the world of reality.

The book is written in a style of interconnecting short stories.  While on their own, some of the stories were entertaining and at times endearing, the overall effect was disjointed and had an aimless feel.  At one time I may have been able to appreciate the method of story telling and laud the authors artistic expression. Now, I simply don’t care.  The book tried to be too many things and failed at most of them.  This may be for some people but not for me.

I didn’t despise it so I gave two stars.  Being a fan of other absurd forms of entertainment such as Monty Python and Mystery Science Theatre 2000, I can’t be too upset that the Boy Detective Fails.

Subsribe to Our Posts

If you enjoy our reviews, have each new review delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts


Tim Written by:

Tim is a lawyer, sports fan, parent, husband and book lover. He runs his own legal practice and is the founder of The Literary Lawyer book blog and a contributing writer for Tim loves to share his love of reading by providing reviews to entertain as well as provide information to help you make an informed reading decision.