Monday, April 23, 2012

The Brixton Brothers Series

The Brixton Brothers series consists of three books (thus far) by Mac Barnett.

1. The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity, 2009
2. The Ghostwriter Secret, 2010
3. It Happened on a Train, 2011

Steve Brixton is twelve years old, and his favorite books are the Bailey Brothers books by Macarthur Bart. The Bailey Brothers books consist of 58 titles plus The Bailey Brothers' Detective Handbook. Shawn and Kevin Bailey are the sons of detective Harris Bailey. They frequently help their father solve cases. Their father also tends to rescue them when they get into a jam. Sound familiar? Steve Brixton's idols, the Bailey Brothers, are parodies of the Hardy Boys, Frank and Joe.

Steve's first adventure, The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity, is also a parody of the Hardy Boys. In The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity, Steve checks out a book from the library and unwittingly finds himself in the middle of a mystery. It turns out that the book holds a clue to the location of the Maguffin Quilt, which contains all of the United States' most important secrets. Not only that, but the Librarians are a secret force which seeks to protect the Maguffin Quilt. As soon as Steve checks out the book, the Librarians come after Steve in their Bookmobile.

The plot of the first book is a bit ridiculous and comes across as an obvious parody. Despite the ridiculousness of the plot and the fact that the plot is aimed squarely at children, I found the story engaging enough to want to read the second book. After now having read all three books, I see the first book as setting the foundation for the later books. While the first book is not as good as the other two books, it must be read in order to fully appreciate what comes next.

The second book, The Ghostwriter Secret, has to do with the author of the Bailey Brothers books, Macarthur Bart, and how Marcarthur Bart is a pseudonym for a series of ghostwriters, et cetera,... except there is a twist. I really cannot give any additional details, or I will give away too much. The second book is more engaging than the first book. The second book comes across partly as a parody and partly as a real modern day Hardy Boys book.

By the third book, the reader is firmly pulled into Steve's modern day Hardy Boys style world. Each book in this series is better than the previous title. The third book, It Happened on a Train, has Steve trying to figure out who is planning to steal a valuable old car that is being transported on a train. This mystery is just like the old mysteries. The reader knows very well that the culprit is one of several people and has fun predicting who it will be and how the plot will play out.

Girls' series book fans might think that the Brixton Brothers books play off of just the Hardy Boys books, but a few nods are given to girls' series books as well. A chapter title in one of the books is "The Mysterious Letter," which brings to mind Nancy's Mysterious Letter. A number of chapter titles play off of the style of old series book titles. That in itself makes these books fun.

Most readers and collectors of series books have bemoaned the fact that modern books are just not like our favorite vintage books. The third Brixton Brothers book is just like the old Hardy Boys books, but set in modern times. It does work. Upon finishing the third book, author Mac Barnett has caught my attention fully.

These books are better than much of the recent output of the actual Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books. Admittedly, I have not read any of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books of the last several years, but these books are better than the most recent ones that I have read from the last ten years, such as some of the Nancy Drew Girl Detective books. I have heard that the Nancy Drew Girl Detective books have been steadily going downhill, so I can confidently state that these books are better than most of those books without having read them. I will definitely read the fourth Brixton Brothers book once it is published.

If my review has not convinced you to give these books a try, then consider visiting the product pages at You can read the opening pages of the first book from Amazon's product page. Additionally, visit the Brixton Brothers website. Even if you don't think you are interested in reading this series, make sure you scroll down and click on the link for the website for the fictitious Bailey Brothers series. You'll be glad you did, especially if you have ever read a Hardy Boys book.


sequesterednooks said...

I'll have to keep my eye out for these, even if just to support the author. They sound intriguing!

It would be interesting to compile a list of modern books that contain similar elements to vintage series. Are mysteries not as popular as they once more, or is it just me?

Jennifer said...

My impression is that modern books mostly center on wizards, magic, and anything of a fantasy nature.

I have not read many books for younger readers, such as the group for which the Brixton Brothers are aimed, so I have to go by what the reviews state. This review on Amazon mentions that the Brixton Brothers books do not have the silliness of other children's books.

On the subject of wizards and Harry Potter, in the third Brixton Brothers book, Steve scoffs at his best friend's choice of reading material, a book called Wizard's World. We even get to read a "passage" from this fictitious book. The passage includes of a bunch of made up names for wizards and other magical creatures. The funny part is that later, Steve misquotes from the excerpt, mentioning "boggarts." His friend corrects him to the fake name from the fake book. Boggarts are in the Potter books. :)