Literature / Encyclopedia Brown

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/Encyclopedia_Bown_comic_strip_2715.jpg
Encyclopedia in action.

"I wouldn't believe him if he swore he was lying."
Encyclopedia Brown

Encyclopedia Brown is the Kid Detective hero of a series of children's stories written by Donald Sobol. He uses his intelligence and formidable memory for trivial facts to solve a wide variety of mysteries. The Encyclopedia Brown stories are essentially a kids' version of Sobol's earlier series Two Minute Mysteries featuring the police detective Dr. Haledjian. A number of Brown cases are directly taken from Two Minute Mysteries, albeit with the murders solved by Haledjian being (mostly) replaced with more humble crimes like bicycle theft. Like Two Minute Mysteries, most Encyclopedia Brown stories revolve around our detective spotting an inconsistency or impossibility in the guilty party's alibi.

Leroy "Encyclopedia" Brown is the son of the Chief of Police in Idaville, who one day reveals an uncanny ability to crack cases using his deductive skills. Once a book he helps his dad solve a serious case at the dinner table, and the rest of the time he runs a neighborhood detective agency to help the local kids with their own troubles. His eternal rival is Bugs Meany, a local bully with his own posse of troublemakers, The Tigers. Encyclopedia's friend (and bodyguard) is Sally Kimball, a Cute Bruiser whom even Bugs fears. Another recurring enemy is Wilford Wiggins, a high school dropout who is constantly trying to con the neighborhood kids into buying bogus products or merchandise. Encyclopedia, Sally, and Bugs all agree that they hate him.

It was adapted into a short-lived HBO series in 1989 (when an original HBO series was more likely to be a kids' show). There was also a Newspaper Comic syndicated from 1978-80.

The last book of the series was posthumously published in October, 2012, three months after Sobol's death.
    Books in this series 
  • Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective (1963).
  • Encyclopedia Brown Strikes Again (1965), also known as The Case of the Secret Pitch.
  • Encyclopedia Brown Finds the Clues (1966).
  • Encyclopedia Brown Gets His Man (1967).
  • Encyclopedia Brown Solves Them All (1968).
  • Encyclopedia Brown Keeps the Peace (1969).
  • Encyclopedia Brown Saves the Day (1970).
  • Encyclopedia Brown Tracks Them Down (1971).
  • Encyclopedia Brown Shows the Way (1972).
  • Encyclopedia Brown Takes the Case (1973).
  • Encyclopedia Brown Lends a Hand (1974), also known as Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Exploding Plumbing and Other Mysteries.
  • Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Dead Eagles (1975).
  • Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Midnight Visitor (1977).
  • Encyclopedia Brown Carries On (1980).
  • Encyclopedia Brown Sets the Pace (1981).
  • Encyclopedia Brown Takes the Cake (1982). Co-written with Glenn Andrews.
  • Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Mysterious Handprints (1985).
  • Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Treasure Hunt (1988).
  • Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Disgusting Sneakers (1990).
  • Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Two Spies (1995).
  • Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of Pablo's Nose (1996).
  • Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Sleeping Dog (1998).
  • Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Slippery Salamander (2000).
  • Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Jumping Frogs (2003).
  • Encyclopedia Brown Cracks the Case (2007).
  • Encyclopedia Brown, Super Sleuth (2009).
  • Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Secret UFO (2010).
  • Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Carnival Crime (2011).
  • Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Soccer Scheme (2012).

The book also provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Adults Are Useless: Every book starts with Encyclopedia helping his police officer father solve a crime over dinner. (These tend to be 'real' cases, e.g. armed robbery. The other chapters are cases brought to him by fellow schoolmates and are the sorts of misdeeds carried out by local bullies.)
  • Aesop Amnesia:
    • Late in many of the books, Encyclopedia attends a gathering of local kids called by Wilford Wiggins to invite them to buy into something big that doesn't exist. You'd think people would stop listening to him after the first few times Encyclopedia explained how Wilford was trying to con them, but not only do people keep attending Wilfrod's gatherings, it happens often enough for Encyclopedia to create a special policy for it: in one instance, Encyclopedia tells his client he takes cases involving Wilford pro bono.
    • Encyclopedia consistently gets calls asking him to come to a certain location (sometimes deserted) because the anonymous caller wants to hire him for something. Inevitably, it turns out to be one of Bugs's revenge schemes. But Encyclopedia and Sally fall for it every time.
      • On the other hand, Encyclopedia's the good guy, so as smart as it might be to be selective about his assignments, it would make the detective agency (and possibly even the local police force, since his father's the police chief) look bad if he were to ignore a call for help.
  • Affectionate Parody: "Wikipedia Brown: The Case of the Captured Koala", which doubles as a Take That to The Other Wiki.
  • Alliterative Name: Wilford Wiggins, Benny Breslin, Pablo Pizarro, Tyrone Taylor, Pinky Plummer, Mugsy Moonsooner.
  • Ambiguous Syntax: This gets Tyrone in trouble when trying to give a love letter to a girl.
  • Anachronistic Clue:
    • In one story the Conviction by Counterfactual Clue that a sword purporting to be from The American Civil War is a fake is the inscription, which states that it was given to Stonewall Jackson by General Lee "after the first Battle of Bull Run," which wasn't called that until after the 2nd Battle of Bull Run.
    • In "The Case of the Roman Pots", among several ceramic pots offered for sale as Roman was one pot dated "XXIII B.C." Encyclopedia Brown points out to a prospective buyer that the "B.C." dating system was created hundreds of years later.note 
  • Artistic License Gun Safety: One of Encyclopedia's clients is a boy obsessed with frontier history who runs around with an authentic 19th century musket. There's no real problem, since it's specifically noted that the gun is so old and rusted that it couldn't shoot gumdrops.
    • Although it should be noted that 1) common gun safety rules are to assume all guns are loaded and dangerous at all times unless you genuinely just checked, and 2) black-powder firearms that are left loaded can become dangerously unstable but still functional for decades, if not centuries.
  • Awesome Mccoolname: Some of the characters fall underneath these, including Bugs (Meany), Trisk, Cicero, Ziggy, and Wilford. Not to mention Encyclopedia himself (or his real name, Leroy).
    • "Bugs" being a nickname with a long provenance, shows the author's age - it was an early 20th century nickname for someone who was criminally or otherwise unstable (from whence was derived the name of Bugs Bunny).
  • Author Appeal: The author has the taste not to sexualize Sally, but the type she fits into is portrayed semisexually in many of his other works.
  • Big Eater: Chester and his sister, Candice.
  • Bluffing the Murderer: Very, very common.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Well, not exactly "brilliant," but in a few stories, Encyclopedia and Sally comment that Wilford Wiggins, compulsive huckster, is actually a rather talented artist, as shown when he creates a fake painting of the Liberty Bell that took weeks to perfect. Unlike most examples of this trope, however, it is portrayed unambiguously negatively. Rather than using his talents legitimately, Wilford instead squanders them on get-rich-quick schemes by trying to pass his work off as some valuable historical relic or other instead of letting them stand on their own merits.
  • Broken Glass Penalty: One segment has some kids breaking a window from the inside and accidentally throwing the ball out the window. To avoid getting in trouble they put a rock on the floor in the room and told their mother that someone had thrown the rock in, that's how the window got broken. The mother figures out that if the rock had been thrown in there would be glass in the room, but there wasn't, only glass on the ground outside.
  • Bullying a Dragon:
    • Bugs Meany doesn't know when to quit framing Encylopedia for various crimes, or to try and threaten him to scram when bullying another kid.
    • Percy's Establishing Character Moment is reading Encyclopedia's detective notice, making up a mocking poem about it, and then hitting on Sally. He also encourages her to give up being a bodyguard since it "isn't ladylike". Encyclopedia quickly reveals him as a "phony" in Sally's words by staging a fight to impress her.
  • The Case Of: The series has used this many times, with titles like Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Dead Eagles and Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Disgusting Sneakers.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: The Lions gang in book one, which were like Bugs's gang. They never show up after Encyclopedia solves a case where one of their knives ended up in a watermelon.
  • Collector of the Strange: Charlie Stewart, the boy who collects teeth in a cookie jar. In an even odder case, an "egg spinning champion" covets it as the prize in a bet.
  • Con Artists Have No Sense of Scale: In one case, Wilford claims to be designing a scale model of the universe that would fit in the Grand Canyon, with a ball, one inch in diameter, to represent the sun. Fortunately for the kids, Encyclopedia does have a sense of scale and realizes exactly how big such a "scale" model would be.note 
  • Condensation Clue: Used by a couple of spies to leave messages for one another in a hotel room they took turns checking into.
  • Conviction by Contradiction: Used constantly! The series contains classic examples of the trope. It's even the former trope namer - Bugs Meany Is Gonna Walk.
  • Conviction by Counterfactual Clue: Frequently used. This was a former Trope Namer for this as well—Encyclopedia Browned (a pun on Dan Browned).
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Sally versus any boy she has to fight. In fact, one time Encyclopedia anticipates that if she won't win a battle that he'll not tell her and handle it himself by tying an iron sheet around his waist.
  • Cute Bruiser: Sally. She's described as being "the prettiest girl in the fifth-grade", and the most athletic. She frequently beats up the bullies. It's indicated that Encyclopedia made her his partner both because he recognized how smart she was, and to be his bodyguard.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Inverted; after Encyclopedia solves a challenge mystery that Sally presents to him, he hires her as his bodyguard. She also provides good common sense like not keeping his earnings in a shoe-box.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: One recurring character is a boy who collects teeth, who usually walks around barefoot in the hopes of finding new specimens under his feet.
  • Dying Clue: Both real and fake ones (as well as the related "person who wrote the clue was in danger and hid a code for help") pop up on occasion. There was even at least one case where the clue was in a dead man's will, because he knew in life that one of his sons had cheated him.
  • Encyclopedic Knowledge: This is how Encyclopedia got his nickname.
  • Enemy Mine: The one time that Bugs is even remotely on Encyclopedia's side, it's when Encyclopedia and Sally are facing off in a mystery-solving contest.
  • Evil Is Petty:
    • Even though Bugs knows that Encyclopedia could set his father on him at any time, he still steals things from other kids or tries to scam them into buying "authentic" swords and autographed books.
    • One kid sabotages another girl's dog from winning an Ugly Dog contest even though it's just a contest for fun and the kid doesn't even win.
  • Fairplay Whodunnit: Within limits. It was once the trope namer for both Conviction by Contradiction and Conviction by Counterfactual Clue after all (as "Bugs Meany Is Gonna Walk" and "Encyclopedia Browned"), and even has its own section in Conviction by Contradiction.
  • Fresh Clue:
    • Inverted in the first Bugs Meany story, he claims that he just put up a tent on a rainy morning, while Encyclopedia Brown's first client claims that it's his tent that has been up for weeks. Encyclopedia "accidentally" knocks down a pack of cards and notes that they're dry, thus disproving Bugs's story. In the TV show it's played straight in that the boy just put up the tent and Bugs claims he and his gang were there for a week, and instead the cards are damp from the rain.
    • Inverted in another story. EC deduces that the perp had not just just pulled up after a hours-long drive (as he claims) because a baby sits on the car hood and doesn't get burned; therefore the car must have been sitting there long enough to cool down.
  • Fun with Acronyms: In a sense. One case involved a kidnapped man who left behind a clue written on a desk calendar—the numbers 7 8 9 10 11. Since they were written on a calendar and not the notepad beside it, Encyclopedia surmised that the numbers stood for months of the year: July, August, September, October and November. The first letters of those months identified a man named Arthur Jason as the kidnapper.
  • Fun with Palindromes: Used in the solution to one story. One student wanted to let the teacher know who had broken a globe but without being seen as a snitch. He therefore completed a captioning assignment using only palindromes. The guilty parties were the two students whose names were palindromes.
  • Genius Bruiser: Sally, particularly on cases where gender is a plot point.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Bugs' arranging a competition between Encyclopedia and Sally. The plan: to have Encyclopedia win and thus show up the girl who beat up Bugs. This plan succeeds, so far as it goes, but then Encyclopedia and Sally join forces, much to Bugs' chagrin.
  • Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen: One story was Brown solving the case of who stole a boy's clothes, leaving him naked in the woods.
  • Heavy Sleeper: One of Encyclopedia's camping buddies, Benny Breslin, has this trait. It's become a plot point to a case more than once.
  • Hold My Glasses: Key to one case. One boy goes on a date with Sally and gets into a fight, taking his glasses off first. Unfortunately, Encyclopedia busts him as a fraud when he puts the glasses in his shirt/coat pocket, where they would have been broken in a real fight. Sally turns on her suitor when Encyclopedia tips her off.
  • Hollywood Law: The story that introduces Sally, when she presents a mystery to test Encyclopedia's skill, has one glaring flaw that falsifies the solution: when the grandniece states that Merko is not Fred Gibson's grandfather, the court takes her claim seriously, because Merko, revealed in the solution to be a woman, is the man's grandmother. However, in real life, the probate judge is well aware of the decedent's gender (it's on the death certificate, after all, and this hearing took place decades after Merko's death), and such a statement would have been dismissed out of hand as frivolous. Even if the judge didn't know (Merko had posed as a man her entire life, and there was either no medical examination or the coroner had been suborned to falsify the record), the question of Merko's gender was legally irrelevant in any case. The only way the grandniece could have been taken seriously would have been if Merko had been a man, and the allegation was that Fred Gibson had simply been lying. It's obvious, in-universe, that Sally is trying to test not only Encyclopedia's intelligence, but whether or not he is sexist; however, she could have devised a better story. This is fixed in the HBO version, where Sally doesn't explicitly state that the judge didn't take the claim validly but rather "both the man and the woman were right," that is both are telling the truth.
  • Humble Hero: Encyclopedia takes no credit for helping his dad solve cases, though his dad wants to hang a medal on him every time he does. (The narration mentions that Encyclopedia wouldn't be able to stand up under all those medals).
  • Hustler: Wilford.
    • Bugs Meany as well, on a smaller scale.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: How most of Encyclopedia's suspects incriminate themselves.
  • Informed Ability: Sally is supposedly on roughly the same level as Encyclopedia, intellectually. It's only ever applied a few times. One occasion is when she arranges a mystery face-off against him, and on a few other rare occasions when she solves the mystery instead of Encyclopedia.
    • Her most common case-solving portrayal, used almost once per book, is to point out something that Brown failed to notice due to her greater awareness of gender issues.
    "That," Sally replied, "is because you are a boy."
    • Justified when Encyclopaedia drops the hint about Percy's glasses. Despite the fact that until then she's almost swooning in adoration, she realises at once what he's trying to tell her and acts appropriately to the point where feigning unconsciousness is the only way for Percy to make her stop hitting him.
    • Her being just below Encyclopedia intellectually is typically portrayed by her knowing who the guilty party is, just not being able to prove it; or at least not as fast as Encyclopedia.
  • Inspector Lestrade: Chief Brown can solve some cases single-handedly, but he never plays this trope completely straight.
  • Invisible Writing: There was a story which used lemon juice as the ink of choice.
  • It Was with You All Along: In one case, the absent-minded Ziggy Ketchum is mentioned as having once hired Encyclopedia to find his wristwatch. Encyclopedia found it on his other wrist.
  • I Was Beaten by a Girl: How Bugs' reacted to his first meeting with Sally, and he can Never Live It Down, it seems.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Somewhat averted with Bugs Meany. While he is frequently called out on his trickery and sometimes even publicly humiliated, he frequently files false police reports against Encyclopedia (son of the police chief) with no consequences.
    • A blind violinist's friend who cheated him out of an expensive violin during a bet, that is to replace a glass with ice locked in a safe with a glass of ginger ale without the violinist hearing him. The friend used Loophole Abuse by bringing frozen ginger ale ice cubes in an insulated bag and simply waiting for them to melt in the safe. Encyclopedia doesn't have his usual summation at the end about what happened after he told the violinist.
  • Kidanova: Tyrone Taylor appears in a few cases and apparently has a history of trying to woo a lot of different girls. Oh, he's also 9.
  • Kid Detective
  • Kirk Summation: The answers in the back of each book. In the show Encyclopedia gives them more succinctly.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Over the nearly four decades the series has been running, Sobol introduced a surprisingly large number of kids, most of whom have a recurring personality quirk that centers around some hobby (art, catching flies, entering contests, superstitions, acting, etc.) and who often serve as Encyclopedia's clients.
  • Meaningful Name: Bugs Meany.
  • Mugging the Monster: Someone steals Sally's rollerblades from Encyclopedia while he's getting a tooth removed. He grumbles about a detective getting robbed and quickly finds the thief, undoing the latter's claims that he doesn't know anything about "Dr. Wilson" while revealing he knows Vivian Wilson is a guy and a dentist, when most people would assume Vivian is a woman. It's a good thing the thief gives up the blades before Sally beat the tar out of him.
  • Mystery Fiction
  • Non-Action Guy: Encyclopedia, who constantly anticipates any confrontations with bullies bigger than him. This is why he has Sally, though the first time he encountered Bugs he merely threatened to call the cops on him.
    • Courageously averted on one occasion: he specifically states (when asked why he isn't bringing her) that the boy they're dealing with is more than her match. (On this occasion, however, he's aware of the older boy's signature method of brutality and has taken appropriate precautions.)
  • Not Allowed to Grow Up: Since the first book was published almost fifty years ago, Encyclopedia's age has always been listed as ten years old (or a fifth-grader, for those books that don't mention an age).
  • Obfuscating Disability: Deliberately invoked by the perp in one story.
  • Oh Crap!:
    • Encyclopedia when he accepts a piece of chocolate from a hitchhiker while helping his father chase down a gang in a police care, notes that it snaps in two, and realizes that it contradicts the hitchhiker's story that he was out in the sun for an hour, since the chocolate would have melted. This means he's in the backseat of a police car with a criminal.
    • Also Encyclopedia after he's accepted cooked meat from two guys while searching for a friend's goose, and realizing belatedly that they had killed and cooked the goose.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Only his parents and the occasional extra adult in a case calls Encyclopedia by his real name (Leroy). Everyone else calls him Encyclopedia.
  • Only Sane Man: Encyclopedia, Sally, and Bugs are usually the only people who doubt Wilford Wiggins whenever he does one of his cons.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Sally at one point considers giving up her bodyguard duty to Encyclopedia when she falls for Percy, who believes that fighting isn't "ladylike". This annoys Encyclopedia enough to reveal that Percy is a phony.
  • Our Cryptids Are More Mysterious: One mystery involved Encyclopedia investigating a "Skunk Ape", the Idaville version of an abominable snowman. Of course, it's only Bugs Meany again.
  • Platonic Boy/Girl Heroes: Encyclopedia and Sally.
  • Platonic Life Partners: Encyclopedia and Sally, reader comments about them making "a cute couple" aside. Was Lampshaded at least once by a kid photographer who saw them sitting on a couch together and tried to take a picture.
    • Coincidentally, Sally almost attacked that photographer with a lamp.
      • Also due to the fact that they're TEN.
  • Polar Bears and Penguins: Provides the solution to one mystery.
  • Pun: Whenever an alternate name for the Tigers is mentioned.
  • Police Are Useless: How is it that after almost 25 cases in which Bugs is proven wrong, the cops still respond to Bugs' attempts to frame Encyclopedia and Sally?
    • In Real Life, police do have (in theory) an obligation to investigate any criminal complaint made, and in-story, Bugs does do a good job setting up some of his plots. Where this trope does come into play is when, upon being exposed, Bugs isn't immediately hauled off to jail. Note to author: making a false criminal complaint is illegal in and of itself, not to mention some of the underlying crimes Bugs commits in trying to frame Encyclopedia and Sally.
  • Race Lift: Some newer covers depict Encyclopedia Brown as Hispanic.
  • Saying Too Much: In "The Case of the Air Foot Warmer," the perp might have gotten away with his alibi of using the titular object in a certain store where it's cold if he hadn't mentioned that with the titular object he can't bend over. This contradicts the shopkeeper's account that he bent down to pick up a baby while there, which reveals that he actually did shoplift two rifles.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Averted. Despite Encyclopedia being the police chief's son, he never abuses that authority, even when someone like Bugs is constantly trying to frame him.
  • Second Place Is for Winners: One perp is a girl who intentionally wins second prize in a contest because she broke the first prize.
  • Secret Art: In one story Bugs claims to have learned a secret martial arts death grip from an oriental master and demonstrates it on two of his Tigers, supposedly knocking them out. He then challenges Sally to a fight, thinking she'd be too intimidated to accept. However, the Tigers fall over backwards and Encyclopedia Brown tells Sally that he knows Bugs is faking because people who pass out fall forward after their knees buckle. Sally promptly beats Bugs up.
  • Serious Business: Idaville seems to have a lot of unique contests that fit this trope, including shower singing, mouse shows, worn-out sayings contests, and the like. Encyclopedia even lampshades this when discussing the mouse show.
    • Similarly, some of the kids' hobbies fit this trope, too. Justified, as, at that age, one's hobby is indeed Serious Business — at least to oneself.
  • Snake Oil Salesman: Wilford Wiggins. Encyclopedia has to foil his "get rich quick" schemes on a regular basis.
  • Society Marches On: One case had you realizing that one of the people said he went to a bank on a Sunday, when banks were closed at the time of writing. Nowadays, though most banks are still closed on Sundays, the proliferation of ATMs means that one can still do business in a bank (make deposits, withdrawals, etc.) even when it's technically closed. Additionally, as banks have moved into supermarkets and malls many banks are now open seven days a week, only closing on major holidays.
  • Solid Gold Poop: Smelly Nellie is on the hunt for ambergis - whale vomit - in order to sell it to perfumers.
  • Something Completely Different: 'Encyclopedia Brown Takes the Cake had only seven cases instead of the standard ten, and each case was followed with an additional chapter and a recipe in the theme of that particular case.
  • Strictly Formula: Each book arranges its stories in a similar loose arc.
    • The first couple of pages of every book except for the first are almost word-for-word identical, describing Idaville, the businesses in it, and the police force, leading up to Chief Brown bringing a case home for his son to solve.
    • The second usually introduces the detective agency he runs out his garage, and a neighborhood kid will come by and hire him to do something about something Bugs Meany's done.
    • The third or fourth chapter is Bugs' attempt at revenge, usually by getting the police involved. And the introduction of Sally Kimball for the book, and the explanation of why Bugs doesn't just punch Encyclopedia's lights out.
    • While Bugs and his gang are introduced, the author will also usually suggest that they should have called them something else besides "The Tigers" ("They should have called themselves the Steel Clocks. They were always giving some kid a hard time.") and have Bugs envision some sort of comically gruesome fate for Encyclopedia ("Pounding his head so low that he'd be able to use his socks as earmuffs.") Typically, if Sally's involved, there's mention of the only time Bugs tried to mess with her and his resulting Non Sequitur Thud ("mumbling something about the price of tea in China").
    • The eighth or ninth chapter in most books has Encyclopedia thwarting one of Wilford Wiggins's get-rich-quick schemes.
  • Straying Baby: One ends up undoing a perp's alibi by nearly falling off his car hood. The baby was walking on it and gurgling happily. Encyclopedia points out to his father that if the man had been driving for the amount of miles as he claimed, the hood would have been scorching hot, burning the child and causing him to scream.
  • Strong Girl, Smart Guy: Sally and Encyclopedia.
  • Supreme Chef: Mrs. Brown is supposed to be one. In Encyclopedia Takes the Cake it's revealed that she can whip up Fourth of July snacks as well as Chinese food if her son asks.
  • Tattered Flag: In a moment of In-Universe Fridge Logic, Encyclopedia realizes that a man lauded as a hero shouldn't have gotten a medal because according to the story being told, the man saw the flag over a fort (that had been taken over by hostile Native Americans) flying in the rain; this should have at least given him cause for concern (as army regulations hold that flags should be put away in inclement weather), but he led the wagon train down the pass into the fort anyway.
  • Tech Marches On: One mystery was "solved" based on Q and Z being omitted from the letters assigned to numbers on a telephone. We'll wait a second while you get your phone out and check...
  • 13 Is Unlucky: Trisk (which is short for Triskaidekaphobia, the fear of the number thirteen) is terribly superstitious, particularly about his namesake.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Bugs Meany attempting to frame Encyclopedia, when Encyclopedia easily undoes the Frame-Up each time and his father is the chief of police.
  • Twin Switch: Encyclopedia proves that two twins do this and take away Chester's victory at a blueberry pie eating contest and sprint because the twin running the race had clean white teeth, when they should have been stained blue from the pie.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: One girl who took down a love message from an admirer to give to her sister ended up doing this by accident. She got the words down but not the punctuation, making it sound like a mocking note instead.
  • The War on Straw: In "The Case of the Dead Eagles", Encyclopedia promotes gun control and ridicules the "Guns don't kill people, people do" argument. In so doing, he makes an analogy, stating that that logic, applied to cars, would lead to abolition of all traffic laws and regulations and fines. Except it doesn't. The aforementioned argument is that people, not guns, are responsible for gun-related offenses, and that the best remedy society has is to punish said people, using the existing regulations Encyclopedia claims his opponents want to abolish, rather than outlawing guns altogether. In fact, although groups like the NRA want to see a rollback of many gun restrictions, no one wants to see an abolition of regulations against, or punishment for, irresponsible gun use, or the prevention of gun ownership by people proven to be unwilling or unable to act responsibly.
  • We Need to Get Proof: Encyclopedia's father tells him this in the first book after investigating a potential suspect of a robbery. Encyclopedia then reveals the proof was a Straying Baby playing on a car hood that should have been burning hot.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Partially averted. While the location of the series' setting, Idaville, is never explicitly given, enough clues exist in the books to identify it as somewhere on the Gulf Coast of Florida.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Bugs claims this is the only reason Sally can stand up to him.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: A woman borrowing jewels from a friend pulls this quite cleverly; this woman goes to a room after a party, to lie down, and people hear her scream following two gunshots. They rush to the room, only to find that she's fainted and the borrowed necklace is gone from her neck. Encyclopedia foils her story because she says that she didn't see the man that "burgled" her, which then doesn't explain why she screamed before the shots were fired. The police find the necklace hidden in her room, in a hatbox.
  • You Are Too Late: In one story Encyclopedia finds a girl's goose, after realizing he accepted a slice of "dark meat" from two men. The aftermath story shows said girl is crushed that her goose is dead, though her dad received money from the men as compensation and Encyclopedia has the sense to not mention the word "goose" in front of her.

The HBO series also provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Adaptational Badass: Encyclopedia, as shown when he manages to fend off a grown man attacking him at Ida's statue and Bugs Meany soon after.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Sally calls Encyclopedia "E.B."
  • Demoted to Extra: Sally, who serves as The Watson to Encyclopedia but in a number of episodes Encyclopedia takes her lines and place in the tale.
  • The '80s: Glaringly so, especially with the rock star that Sally admires and the computer that she and Encyclopedia use to organize suspects and motives.
  • Frame-Up: Bugs tries to frame Encyclopedia for stealing Ida's treasure box by leaving the boy's business card by her statue. Unfortunately, he forgot that Encyclopedia's dad is chief of the police and knows that his son isn't a thief.
  • The Worf Effect: Sally can handle kids her own age fine in a physical fight, but even she isn't strong enough to fend off a grown man who stole Ida's treasure who then locks her up when he catches her snooping around his yard.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/EncyclopediaBrown