Bad News for Milk Bay, by Moya Simons

‘Hey, I run a detective agency. I can be left alone,’ I said.
We were eating breakfast. Mum sprinkled sugar over her cornflakes. ‘Yes,’ she said, ‘you run a detective agency; and yes, you’ve been alone before; and no, you’re not staying home this time’ and yes, you’re going with Dad to the protest rally at the council chambers; and no, don’t look at me that way. It will be a very educational experience.’
‘I get enough education at school. I have plans. I want to update my detective notebook tonight.’
‘Well, bring your notebook along with you. As a detective I think you’ll be very interested,’ Dad said.
I felt a slight prickle of interest, like a flea was drawing blood from my brain.

Milk Bay is a small town where a lot seems to happen. Thank goodness it is home to the Walk Right In Detective Agency where David and his partner Bernice solve mysteries big and small. Sometimes the mysteries find them, sometimes they see mystery others miss. In this fourth instalment of the series, David and Bernice are experiencing a bit of a slump. Business is slow and supplies are low. Little does David expect that being forced to go to a protest rally will not only see he and Bernice on opposite sides as the Mayor talks about the most exciting potential development Milk Bay has ever seen. Half the town seem to be for the development, half against. David’s infallible nose senses ‘there’s mischief afoot’. He’s keen to investigate, but first there’s the matter of Flick’s grandmother’s ring. And paying jobs should come first.

Bad News for Milk Bay is told in mostly in first person, with main character, David’s, detective observations dispersed through the text. It’s almost as if he’s channelling some long-gone gumshoe. His observations are funny, and follow the edict that no detail is too small or trivial to be overlooked. Bad News for Milk Bay opens with pages from David’s note book which detail the highs and lows of the detective business. But although the style is humourous and some of their cases are easily solved, others are more serious. As with previous titles in this series, the main plot explores a big issue. This time it’s development, specifically the plan to turn Horatio Brown’s lovely and loved farm into a whiz-bang, you-beaut tourist precinct. Milk Bay is lucky to have David and Bernice, and dodgy sorts everywhere ought be on alert.

Recommended for middle primary.

Bad News for Milk Bay (Walk Right in Detective Agency)

WRIDA 4 Bad News for Milk Bay, Moya Simons Walker Books 2009
ISBN: 9781921150760

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Mischief Afoot, by Moya Simons

Current success rate over last week: 75 per cent
One semi-failure (not our fault).
One complete success.
Located Mr Lee’s pet cockatoo, Louie, on gum tree in council park. Had been taught to say, ‘Cocky want a kiss.’ Was very happy. Had finally found a cockatoo that wanted a kiss. Last seen with girlfriend flying to unknown destination. Louie’s pet owner upset. After begging pet shop owner for freebie, we were able to give Mr Lee a guinea pig to cheer him up. It was a real shame that the guinea pig turned out to be a biter.
Recovered lost diamond ring belonging to Mrs Gefunkel. Search of house yielded no results. However, upon cross-examination, client recalled removing ring before taking shower. Ring discovered behind vanity basin, close to drain. Lucky, as it could have fallen down drain and be swirling around the Pacific Ocean now. Mrs Gefunkel thinks we’re the greatest.

Mischief Afoot is the third title in the Walk Right In Detective Agency series. David and Bernice run their agency out of their office – a shed in Bernice’s front yard. After a mostly successful week, business is a bit slow. Fortunately the circus is coming to town and there will at least be some distraction. Bernice seems happy enough to see the circus just as diversion, but David’s detective sensibility suspects there is ‘mischief afoot’. The circus seems an exciting life. David meets Tom, a boy about his age who travels with the circus. Tom acquaints David with some of the mucky reality, but David and most of Milk Bay attend the first performance. David notices something awry in the performance although most of the patrons are distracted by the clowns. He is convinced there is a mystery here that requires investigation.

Mischief Afoot is told in first person, from David’s point of view. The reader only sees Bernice, his partner, through his skewed perspective. Moya Simons allows the reader to see past David’s interpretation to know that this is a much more even partnership than David lets on. Their parents and the local community accept their agency although the police warn them occasionally to ‘leave the real policing’ to them. David’s observations and reportage are interspersed through the text as he channels the energy of other more well known private investigators. Text is well-spaced, offering a manageable length for less-confident readers. David’s observations and Bernice’s droll responses add humour. As with previous titles. although this is a light read in some ways, there is a serious issue presented and investigated. Justice is not just about finding love-lorn cockatoos. Recommended for mid-primary readers.

Mischief Afoot, Moya Simons
Walker Books 2008
ISBN: 9871921150973

Open for Business, by Moya Simons

‘Hey, what are you writing?’ Bernice asked. ‘That’s your detective notebook. You’re only supposed to take notes when we’re working.’
‘Waiting for a client is the hardest work I’ve ever done,’ I said. ‘We’ve been open for four days and all we’ve done is sit here after school doing our homework and getting gassy on cola.’
‘I told you, it takes time for word to get around,’ said Bernice. She snorted and stamped her foot.
‘I’ve put in nearly twelve years getting ready to be a detective,’ I told her. ‘I’ve read every crime book. I’ve been on a tour of the police station and I’m heavily into dead bodies. this is kid stuff. I’m only helping you out as practice for my future.’

David and Bernice have set up a detective agency in their home town of Milk Bay. Their office is a shed in Bernice’s front yard. They’ve distributed flyers detailing their services and charges. Now all they have to do is wait for the work to come. And it does. David takes notes, because as he says ‘I need to record everything’ because you never know when you might need witnesses. Bernice thinks David writes down unnecessary things, David thinks Bernice is bossy. But each also admires the skill of the other and together they make a successful team. Some of their cases seem quite straightforward, but their biggest case has more twists and turns than a rollercoaster.

Open For Business is a corker of a detective story. David has read so much about being a detective and he’s channelling the mannerisms of almost all of them. Simultaneously. Bernice is much more pragmatic. David says he’s only doing her a favour by being involved, but together they make a balanced team. Open for Business begins with extracts from David’s detective note book and set the humorous tone with descriptions of everything from Bernice’s ‘straight fringe slicing forehead’ to the air freshener required because of all the cola they’re drinking. The narrative is first person, through David’s eyes, his observations and descriptions are sprinkled throughout the text. The pair do tackle small cases like disappearing underwear, but there is a serious case to be solved too. Having established David and Bernice and ‘The Walk Right In Detective Agency’ in Open For Business, it was no surprise to find the cover of the second title pictured on the final page. I’m sure there’ll be more too. Recommended for mid-primary readers.

Open for Business, Moya Simons
Walker Books 2008
ISBN 9781921150302