Rory Branagan: Detective by Andrew Clover and Ralph Lazar

The Blurb On The Back:

Hello.  I am Rory Branagan.  I am actually a detective.  Now … People always say: “How do you become a detective?” and I say: “Ahhh, you don’t just suddenly find yourself sneaking up on baddies, or chasing them, or fighting them, or living a life of constant deadly danger – you have to want it.”

So why did I want it?

I just wanted to find my dad …

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

10-year-old Rory Branagan lives with his mum, his annoying older brother Seamus and his auntie Jo (who isn’t really his auntie but instead rents the attic in their house).  Rory’s dad left the family when he was 3 and no one will tell him why – no matter how many times he asks.  This is why Rory wants to be a detective – so that he can get answers – and when Cassidy Callaghan and her family moves next door, she volunteers to be his accomplice and help him find his dad.

But as Rory and Cassidy start to investigate, they’re distracted by the unusual goings on at the house of Rory’s friend, Corner Boy Gilligan.  What’s wrong with the Gilligan’s guinea pig, Mike Tyson and why is Corner Boy’s dad unwell and what does it have to do with the new restaurant the Deadly Pirate, which has just opened in town?

Andrew Clover’s comedy mystery for children aged 9+ (the first in a series and illustrated by Ralph Lazar) is a genuinely funny read that does a good job of showing Rory’s frustration and sadness at being without his dad (including through some wonderful flights of fancy) and has a quirky cast of side characters but the plot is very slight and at times risks being overshadowed by the great illustrations.

I thought that Rory is a genuinely engaging character who I think children would easily relate to.  I particularly liked his burgeoning friendship with Cassidy (who has some mysteries of her own but who is confident and assertive and won’t let herself be bullied) and I believed in his relationship with his annoying older brother Seamus (who doesn’t think that Rory will ever be a proper detective). Clover does a good job of setting up the central mystery of why Rory’s dad left but I was a little disappointed that it’s a question that doesn’t get resolved in this book (although presumably it will run through the rest of the books in the series as an overriding arc).

The plot itself here is quite thin and doesn’t really get going until almost half way through the book as Clover sets up his characters and their situations and I think that more confident readers will quickly work out the villain even if the motivation doesn’t really make much sense. I think that the illustrations and the characterisations just about get around this (although the illustrations seem to me more extensive than the writing and although I did like the illustrations as they’re quirky and individual, they do risk overshadowing it).

The supporting cast are enjoyably quirky and I particularly liked Corner Boy Gilligan who stands on a street corner with a spear and has guinea pigs and I’m looking forward to seeing more of Wilkins Welkin the sausage dog who is one of Rory’s best friends.  It’s worth saying that the humour also works well – I think that Clover does particularly well at getting into the frustrations of a 10 year old boy in a humorous way that the target age group will be able to relate to.

My issues aside, this is an enjoyable read and I think there’s a lot of potential in the series, which I would definitely check out.

RORY BRANAGAN – DETECTIVE was released in the United Kingdom on 22ndMarch 2018.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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