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

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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 

  • #1: Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective (1963)Chapters 
  • #2: Encyclopedia Brown Strikes Again (1965), also known as The Case of the Secret PitchChapters 
  • #3: Encyclopedia Brown Finds the Clues (1966)Chapters 
  • #4: Encyclopedia Brown Gets His Man (1967)Chapters 
  • #5: Encyclopedia Brown Solves Them All (1968)Chapters 
  • #6: Encyclopedia Brown Keeps the Peace (1969)Chapters 
  • #7: Encyclopedia Brown Saves the Day (1970)Chapters 
  • #8: Encyclopedia Brown Tracks Them Down (1971)Chapters 
  • #9: Encyclopedia Brown Shows the Way (1972)Chapters 
  • #10: Encyclopedia Brown Takes the Case (1973)Chapters 
  • #11: Encyclopedia Brown Lends a Hand (1974), also known as Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Exploding Plumbing and Other MysteriesChapters 
  • #12: Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Dead Eagles (1975)Chapters 
  • #13: Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Midnight Visitor (1977)Chapters 
  • #14: Encyclopedia Brown Carries On (1980)Chapters 
  • #15: Encyclopedia Brown Sets the Pace (1981)Chapters 
  • #15 1/2: Encyclopedia Brown Takes the Cake! (1982). Co-written with Glenn Andrews.Chapters 
  • #16: Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Mysterious Handprints (1985)Chapters 
  • #17: Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Treasure Hunt (1988)Chapters 
  • #18: Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Disgusting Sneakers (1990)Chapters 
  • #19: Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Two Spies (1995)Chapters 
  • #20: Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of Pablo's Nose (1996)Chapters 
  • #21: Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Sleeping Dog (1998)Chapters 
  • #22: Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Slippery Salamander (2000)Chapters 
  • #23: Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Jumping Frogs (2003)Chapters 
  • #24: Encyclopedia Brown Cracks the Case (2007)Chapters 
  • #25: Encyclopedia Brown, Super Sleuth (2009)Chapters 
  • #26: Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Secret UFOs (2010)Chapters 
  • #27: Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Carnival Crime (2011)Chapters 
  • #28: Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Soccer Scheme (2012)Chapters 


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The books provide examples of the following tropes:

  • 13 Is Unlucky: Book 10, chapter 5 ("The Case of the Skin Diver") introduces Bruce Ford, nicknamed Trisk (short for Triskaidekaphobia, the fear of the number thirteen), who's is terribly superstitious, particularly about the source of his nickname.
  • Adults Are Useless: Subverted in the main books.
    • For starters, there are a lot of cases where adults (and specifically the police) simply aren't involved because they're brought to Encyclopedia by fellow schoolmates and are the sorts of misdeeds carried out by local bullies — misdemeanors not quite worth the police's trouble.
    • The majority of cases where adults are involved are ones that Encyclopedia's police officer father had brought home to discuss over dinner, since they're complicated ones that he can't quite figure out. Chief Brown's not incompetent though, as a number of cases throughout the series are solved by him, and the reader is invited to follow his investigative process.
    • There are also times where Encyclopedia goes to Chief Brown for help, having figured out how to solve a case but needing his father, in his role as a police officer, to get involved. Such cases include book 11, chapter 4 ("The Case of the Counterfeit Bill"), where he calls Chief Brown for help when he suspects a man in a police uniform is an impostor (and he's right). Then, in book 11, chapter 7 ("The Case of the Litterbugs"), he determines that a threatening letter was sent from a recently purchased or repaired typewriter and gets his father to check all the typewriter shops in town in order to find out who owned a typewriter of that kind, and then to match the print from one of the new/repaired typewriters to the print on the letter.
  • And Your Reward Is Edible: Book 26, chapter 5 ("The Case of Grandma's Cookies") revolves around Ziggy Ketchum hiring Encyclopedia to retrieve a batch of chocolate chip cookies his grandmother gave him, which were stolen by a thief. When Encyclopedia retrieves them, Ziggy is so grateful that on top of the quarter he already paid, he shares the cookies with Encyclopedia.
  • Aesop Amnesia:
    • In a lot 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 Wilford'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. Possibly justified, since not all the kids in town would have heard prior pitches, and newcomers to Idaville are always possible.
    • 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. Though to be fair, the police have a policy of always sending someone out even if it sounds like a prank call just in case it isn't, so Brown might have a similar policy.
  • Affectionate Parody: "Wikipedia Brown: The Case of the Captured Koala", which doubles as a Take That! to The Other Wiki.
  • All Balloons Have Helium: Subverted in book 2, chapter 2 ("The Case of the Balloon Man"). A witness claimed he saw a man known for handing out balloons abducting a child when one of his trademark balloons flew into a tree and got stuck. The witness said he'd climbed the tree to retrieve it when he saw the balloon man put the kid in his truck and drive off. Encyclopedia deduced the witness was lying because the aforementioned balloon man always inflated his balloons by mouth, and therefore none would have flown.
  • Alliterative Name: Several of the local kids have these, such as Wilford Wiggins, Benny Breslin, Pablo Pizarro, Tyrone Taylor, Pinky Plummer and Mugsy Moonsooner.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: Book 11, chapter 3 ("The Case of the Skunk Ape") features the skunk ape, said In-Universe to be Idaville's abominable snowman, is an actual cryptid alleged to exist. Its alleged habitat — the Everglades — reinforces popular theories that Idaville is in Florida.
  • Amateur Sleuth: The titular character, a schoolboy who runs his own agency solving schoolyard mysteries, and sometimes assists his father who is the local police chief.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Book 3, chapter 3 ("The Case of Bugs's Kidnapping") revolves around another of Bugs' frame-up attempts. He claims to have been kidnapped (and that Encyclopedia orchestrated it), and brings his mother along for the accusation. She repeatedly interjects about how terrible this was and saying things like "My poor baby", much to Bugs' exasperation, until he finally exclaims "For Pete's sake, Ma!" out of embarrassment over her behavior.
  • Ambiguous Syntax: In book 16, chapter 4 ("The Case of the Angry Girl"), this gets Tyrone in trouble when trying to give a love letter to a girl. It turns out he'd dictated the letter over the phone, but the person taking it down didn't get the punctuation right.
  • Anachronistic Clue:
    • In book 1, chapter 3 ("The Case of the Civil War Sword"), 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" (specifically, in August 1861, exactly one month after the battle). The solution points out two things: first, the South called that particular battle the Battle of Manassas — Bull Run was the Union name for it, and a Southern general would never call it that, let alone inscribe a sword thus. Second, neither side would have called it the first battle because of the aforementioned dates on the sword; neither side could have known there would be another battle in that exact same place in August 1862, thirteen months after the first battle.
    • In book 6, chapter 4 ("The Case of the Cave Drawings"), Wilford Wiggins claims he's discovered caveman drawings and tries to get everyone to invest in what will surely become a new tourist attraction. Encyclopedia foils the scam by noticing a drawing of a caveman fighting a dinosaur. Of course, dinosaurs went extinct long before man emerged.
    • In book 15 1/2, chapter 3 ("The Case of the Fourth of July Artist"), Wilford also tried to pass off a painting of the Liberty Bell, dated July 4, 1776 but showing the bell with a crack. The bell didn't crack until some time in the first half of the 1800s (the book claims 1835, but the earliest confirmed mention of a crack is in 1846).
    • In book 26, chapter 4 ("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 laternote . What's more, B.C. dates are by definition retroactive, since the event that they're based on hadn't happened yet.note 
  • Appeal to Force: The canonical reason why none of the bullies and petty criminals whom Encyclopedia defeats retaliate against him is because his friend Sally beats up anyone who tries.
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: In book 5, chapter 3 ("The Case of the Wagon Master"), one of Encyclopedia's clients is Joe Cooper, a boy obsessed with frontier history who runs around with an authentic 19th century musket. It's specifically noted that the gun is so old and rusted that it couldn't shoot gumdrops, but 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.
  • Artistic License – Law Enforcement: In virtually every book, Bugs Meany tries to frame Encyclopedia for something, only for the other boy to prove that the accusations are bogus. Knowingly filing a fraudulent criminal complaint is a crime in and of itself in 99% of police jurisdictions, so Bugs' attempts to get the police chief's son arrested for crimes that never happened should have gotten him arrested and thrown into a juvenile detention facility by the end of the third book. And even if he was released, the police would likely ignore any later accusations from Bugs on that grounds that he was a known perjurer.
  • Artistic License – Paleontology: In book 6, chapter 4 ("The Case of the Cave Drawings"), the con artist Wilford Wiggins claims to have discovered caveman drawings in an old cave. He almost becomes rich and famous for the "discovery", but Encyclopedia notices a drawing of a caveman fighting a dinosaur. He points out the dinosaurs went extinct long before the age of man, and Wilford's con is exposed.
  • Awesome Mccoolname: Some of the characters fall underneath these, including Bugs (Meany), Trisk, Cicero, Ziggy, and Wilford — as well as 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 semi-sexually in many of his other works.
  • Bad Humor Truck: Subverted in book 2, chapter 2 ("The Case of the Balloon Man"), where a clown who drove an ice cream truck disappeared along with a young boy and was accused of kidnapping him. Turned out they'd both been kidnapped.
  • Bedsheet Ladder: Book 3, chapter 9 ("The Case of the Missing Statue") revolved around this trope — a starlet said that a big, masked intruder broke into the room, knocked out her bodyguard, grabbed a diamond-encrusted statue, and climbed out the window from a bedsheet ladder tied to one of the bedposts. However, Chief Brown and his son proved them to be lying by asking Bugs Meany (who happened to be around at the time) to climb up the bedsheets so he could meet the starlet — when he did so, his (significantly less than the alleged intruder) weight pulled the bed from the wall and released a fountain pen trapped in between.
  • Berserk Button:
    • It's subtle but don't you dare belittle Sally around Encyclopedia; in book 2, chapter 6 ("The Case of the Two-Fisted Poet"), before Percy tried to convince her to be a Girly Girl instead of her true Cute Bruiser tomboy self, Encyclopedia was willing to ignore his annoyance with the other boy. However, the moment Percy did that, Encyclopedia was on the case and determined to unmask Percy as a fake who wasn't good for her.
    • As discussed in book 23, chapter 3 ("The Case of the Black Horse"), Waldo Emerson, one of the neighborhood kids, flips out when he hears the word "round" in any context. It's because he believes the world is actually flat, and is extremely offended by any reminder that other people don't believe the same thing.
  • Big Eater: Chester Jenkins and his sister, Candice. Chester in particular is notorious for this — in book 4, chapter 8 ("The Case of the Blueberry Pies"), it's said that the only one who can out-eat him is Belly Slave, the hippopotamus at the local zoo.
  • Bigfoot, Sasquatch and Yeti: Book 11, chapter 3 ("The Case of the Skunk Ape") involves Encyclopedia investigating a "Skunk Ape", the Idaville version of an abominable snowman. Of course, it's only Bugs Meany again.
  • Bluffing the Murderer: Very, very common.
  • Born Detective: Encyclopedia himself; his father is the chief of police, and amazingly enough all the cases that stumped his entire police force are almost always solved by his son over dinner, to the point where his mother's disappointed in book 1, chapter 5 ("The Case of the Bank Robber") when he can't solve it right then and there.
  • Bottomless Magazines: An allegedly bottomless magazine is the key clue in book 2, chapter 4 ("The Case of the Forgetful Sheriff"). A (crooked) lawman claimed that he received two minor gunshot wounds before taking the gun away from the man who shot him and then killed the gun's owner and his four cohorts with one bullet each. The town hailed the sheriff as a hero until somebody pointed out that you can't shoot seven bullets from a six-shooter without reloading at some point.
  • Break the Fake: An aversion of this is a major clue in book 3, chapter 8 ("The Case of the Stolen Diamonds"), when a "fake" diamond necklace is thrown aside by the suspect but doesn't break as a glass one should have.
  • 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 in book 15 1/2, chapter 3 ("The Case of the Fourth of July Artist"), 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 historical relic or other valuable instead of letting them stand on their own merits.
  • Bulletproof Vest: Variant in book 2, chapter 10 ("The Case of the Stomach Puncher"). Encyclopedia and his client Herb Stein go up against a bully, sixteen-year-old Biff Logan, who stole Herb's bicycle and threatens to punch anyone in the stomach if he doesn't like them (and has carried it out a few times); Encyclopedia prepares for this encounter by donning a piece of sheet metal and covering it with his clothes. It nearly doesn't work because Biff's switched to punching in the eye after the last kid he hit couldn't eat for a week and almost starved, but Encyclopedia dupes him into aiming for the stomach instead, since that way it won't leave evidence. Biff falls for it and badly hurts his hand as a result.
  • The Bully: Bugs Meany, a recurring troublemaker who's always out to cause trouble with his gang, the Tigers and regularly threatens kids if they don't do what he wants.
  • Bullying a Dragon:
    • Bugs Meany doesn't know when to quit framing Encyclopedia for various crimes, or telling him to scram when bullying another kid. He often gets knocked silly by Sally for it.
    • Percy Arbuthnot's Establishing Character Moment in book 2, chapter 6 ("The Case of the Two-Fisted Poet") 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 when he stages a fight to impress her.
  • Career-Revealing Trait: In book 17, chapter 1 ("The Case of the Masked Robber"), Encyclopedia figures out that an alleged victim of theft was just lying so he could get insurance money, because the crook, who could have been one of two identical twins, a tennis player or a cashier, was wearing a T-shirt — if the tennis player had been the culprit, one arm would be more developed, while equal arms would incriminate the cashier. Tennis players don't actually have unequal arm muscles, although this might have been more understandable in the days when one-handed backhands were more common.
  • 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.
    • Almost every chapter title in the main books starts with this. The only exceptions are in book 15 ½, which has seven mysteries and nine other chapters. The former seven use the phrase, while the nine non-mystery chapters leave it off.
  • Character Name and the Noun Phrase: Some of the books follow this format strictly (e.g., Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Dead Eagles), while others deviate slightly (Encyclopedia Brown Strikes Again). The ones that name a specific element always use one of the cases in the book as the noun phrase.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: The Lions gang, a gang similar to Bugs' "The Tigers", appear in book 1, chapter 8 ("The Case of the Knife in the Watermelon"), where Encyclopedia solves a case in which one of their knives ended up in a watermelon. After this, aside from a brief mention in book 3, chapter 10 ("The Case of the House of Cards"), they never show up again.
  • Clueless Mystery: Book 5, chapter 1 ("The Case of the Missing Clues") revolves around something of a subversion. The client in the mystery is a boy who has been selling fresh fruit from a stand on the side of the road; Bugs comes by every day and demands a generous helping of fruit for free, claiming that he is offering "protection" for the boy. On the day that Encyclopedia takes the case, Bugs makes off with a bag of cherries. When Encyclopedia and his client enter Bugs's clubhouse, they find him with an empty bag, but Bugs claims that he bought the cherries elsewhere, and has been eating them since he got back to his hideout. Encyclopedia investigates, and immediately determines that Bugs is lying. The mystery is how he knew, and the solution reveals that if Bugs had been eating the cherries in the clubhouse, there would be stems and pits lying on the floor, and as there aren't any, he must have made up the story and eaten the fruit on his way there. So yes, the mystery is literally clueless — but in this case, the absence of clues is the clue!
  • Cock-a-Doodle Dawn: In book 15, chapter 6 ("The Case of the Crowing Rooster"), high school dropout/con artist Wilford Wiggins tries to get kids to invest in a device that can control birds. He demonstrates its abilities by making a rooster crow at sunset. Encyclopedia ruins the scam by pointing out that since the rooster had been kept under a blanket beforehand, it probably thought the sun was rising instead of setting.
  • Collector of the Strange: Charlie Stewart, the boy who collects animal teeth in a cookie jar. In an even odder case, book 1, chapter 10 ("The Case of the Champion Egg Spinner") has an "egg spinning champion" covet it as the prize in a bet.
  • Con Artists Have No Sense of Scale: In book 8, chapter 5 ("The Case of the Model Universe"), Wilford claims to be designing a scale model of the universe that would fit in the Grand Canyon, with a ball, half an inch in diameter, to represent Earth. 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 in book 19, chapter 8 ("The Case of the Two Spies") by a couple of spies to leave messages for one another in a hotel room they took turns checking into.
  • Convicted by Public Opinion: Book 5, chapter 4 ("The Case of Sir Biscuit-Shooter") involves a friend's uncle who had spent time in prison, but had gone straight and was now working in a circus. His role was a clown named Sir Godfrey Biscuit Shooter, who wore a VERY noisy "armor" made of pots and pans. Later, Sir Biscuit Shooter is accused of knocking out the star of the circus and stealing her money—all because he had been in prison. Many of the circus performers think Sir Biscuit Shooter is the guilty one. Encyclopedia proves the thief was the bareback rider who wore soft slippers and was able to move stealthily. Sir Biscuit Shooter couldn't have pulled off the crime undetected as the clanking of his pots and pans would have given him away.
  • Conviction by Contradiction: Used constantly, to the extent that the trope page has its own folder just for Encyclopedia Brown! The series contains classic examples of the trope. It's even the former trope namer — Bugs Meany Is Gonna Walk. Specific examples include:
    • Book 1, chapter 5 ("The Case of the Bank Robber"): A blind man is the only witness to a crime; a perp fleeing the scene with a bag of cash crashed into him, and it is thought that the man might have felt his face well enough to identify him if he felt it again. Turns out the blind man is not blind, and was in on it the whole time: he swapped bags with the thief when they collided. How does Encyclopedia prove this? When he visited the man in his hotel room, the lights were on and there was a newspaper on the table despite the man claiming he hadn't had visitors in "a long time". Because no hotel in the world offers complementary newspapers that they put in your room. And they never have the lights on when you arrive. And a blind man would totally notice if they were on, and turn them off. This is a lesser example, however. Once Brown figures out what happened getting a doctor to confirm that the guy can see shouldn't be too hard. Overlaps with Conviction by Counterfactual Clue since most blind people aren't completely blind and it is entirely possible for one to leave the lights on and read a newspaper.
    • Book 1, chapter 9 ("The Case of the Missing Roller Skates"): Combining with "I Never Said It Was Poison", Encyclopedia is at the dentist's and has his roller skates stolen. The perp manages to identify himself because he never even heard of him (Dr. Vivian) until Brown mentioned him, and he wasn't at the dentist's because "I had a sprained wrist, not a toothache". Because he couldn't have found out that Vivian was a dentist through other means (such as being close enough to notice that this is a dentist's office), or simply assumed "Vivian" was male since Vivian is a gender-neutral name. (In fact, it's only been seen as a feminine name Since around the 40s or 50s.)
    • Book 2, chapter 7 ("The Case of the Wounded Toe"): A boy gets injured in the foot by an unknown suspect. Another boy is asked to bring a spare shoe for the injured party. Brown deduces the other boy is the perp because he brought the right shoe for the injured foot without asking beforehand which shoe to bring. While common sense might suggest to the boy to think about which foot would need the shoe, he still had a 1 in 2 chance of getting the right shoe if it didn't occur to him right at that moment to ask and, although the wrong shoe might not fit comfortably, it could still fit his foot if the size allows for enough space. Encyclopedia does point out, however, that if the boy didn't know which shoe to bring, he would likely have brought back both shoes. The boy brought back only the one, however, which made Encyclopedia suspicious.
    • Book 2, chapter 8 ("The Case of Excalibur"): A "witness" trying to frame a boy for the theft of a pocket knife claims the boy took the knife with his right hand, and put it in his pocket while running away. He is found innocent because he has a cast on his left hand and the knife was found in his left pants pocket (planted there by the "witness") and (according to the answers section at least) it's impossible to put a pocket knife in your left pants pocket with your right hand while running. Leaving aside that Encyclopedia was assuming an impossibility out of a difficult and highly improbable physical stunt, the mere likelihood of him putting the knife in his left pocket after he'd stopped running never occurred to him.
    • Book 3, chapter 3 ("The Case of Bugs's Kidnapping"): At least one time the series used this trope absolutely correctly. Bugs claims to have been kidnapped at Encyclopedia's behest (how a 5th-grader was able to hire and control adult Mooks is never discussed). He describes being imprisoned in a small room, and attempts to escape by removing the pins from the door hinges, but they are on the other side of the door. Then he tries to wait to the side of the door and jump his kidnappers when they come in, but the door opens into his face, foiling the attack. Standard house doors cannot open away from their hinges, only toward them.
    • Encyclopedia Brown liked solutions where the answer hinged on an American city having the same name as a foreign place that was generally more famous, for example Paris, Texas. This isn't usually conviction by contradiction, but became a case of it in the answer to book 6, chapter 5 ("The Case of the Wanted Man"), which involved an American city called Palestine, where Encyclopedia declared that it had to be the American city because "nobody calls the real one Palestine anymore." Apparently in Encyclopedia Brown's world, Palestinians don't exist. note 
    • Book 6, chapter 6 ("The Case of the Angry Cook"): A man accused of committing a robbery is being interrogated in the crime scene and claims he has never been there before. Shortly afterward, he says, "When you brought me back here, did I resist?" to the police officer. Since he couldn't be brought back if he had never been there before, the man is guilty. First of all, the term "back" doesn't have to mean "return." It can simply indicate distance or location, shown in common phrases such as, "He's from back east." You can also say you're taking someone "back" somewhere if you've already been there. The all-too-common example would be asking a stranger, "Want to go back to my place?"
    • Book 8, chapter 9 ("The Case of the Two-Dollar Bill"): The perp tells someone he's hidden a $2 bill between an odd and even page of a book that are normally on opposite sides of a leaf if the book is read left to right. It might be possible that the book had a typo, breaks the tradition, had its pages printed out of order, or the perp simply misremembered the book pages.
    • Book 9, chapter 6 ("The Case of the Tooth Puller"): A carnival tent gets upended, and the take is stolen in the confusion. When Encyclopedia studies the injuries of the performers, he suspects the magician; the reason? He's wearing a short-sleeved outfit, and "all magicians wear long sleeves to hide things in." This example is also listed under Conviction by Counterfactual Clue.
    • Book 10, chapter 3 ("The Case of the Two-Timers"): A perp who's trying to frame Encyclopedia for claiming ownership of the town clock and charging people to use it to set their watches is "proved" as a liar because he used his left hand to set his own watch, because of the "fact" that when you set your watch with your left hand, you're holding it upside down. (Because it's impossible that a person could simply be more comfortable using their left hand, and compensate for it when setting their watch, or that one could buy left-handed watches specifically to avoid this problem, and ignoring that watch faces are quite easy to read upside down.)
    • Book 12, chapter 1 ("The Case of the Dead Eagles"): The perp claims to have seen something by moonlight on a night when there was no moon. It's entirely possible that the perp saw the incident by another ambient source of light and simply assumed it was moonlight. Interestingly, Abraham Lincoln got an acquittal in a case in exactly this manner, though in his case it was used to show that, without moonlight, it would have been impossible to see something 150 ft away at night in 1858.
    • Book 12, chapter 6 ("The Case of the Old Calendars"): A note about who was supposed to receive some calendars couldn't have been written by a math teacher because it says "divide the calendars by 1/2", which would actually be multiplying by 2, because math teachers never make mistakes in grammar or use common English-language phrasing fallacies outside of the context of the classroom.
    • Book 13, chapter 2 ("The Case of the Hidden Penny"): A stolen rare coin is found inside Bugs Meany's hot dog. How did Encyclopedia know where to find it? Because he saw Bugs spread mustard on top of the sauerkraut, and "no one who likes hot dogs does that." Admittedly, it is a pretty messy way to go about things (similar to trying to spread peanut butter on top of jelly), but c'mon. Interestingly, the story effectively admits Bugs would have walked if he'd been willing to finish his hot dog, and presumably swallow the coin in the process. Also a case of Technology Marches On, as a modern reader would expect the mustard to come out of a squeeze bottle and be easier to have on top than the sauerkraut. Plus, who's to say Bugs hadn't just overlooked the mustard jar, or that someone else was hogging it, when he first started applying his hot dog toppings? For that matter, how hard would it have been for him to just put the bite of hot dog in his mouth and stick the penny under his tongue or the bottom of his cheek?
    • Book 14, chapter 1 ("The Case of the Giant Mousetrap"): A perp claims to have been on the bottom floor of a building when the crime was committed, yet when he went to the elevator, he pressed the "up button." Encyclopedia deduces that the perp was probably not on the very bottom floor, because the perp wouldn't have had to distinguish the button as the "up button" because there wouldn't have been a "down button." Of course, an "up button" is always an "up button" whether or not there's a "down button" along with it. The actual name for them is "call button", but it's rarely used outside of technical and legal documentation. Besides, plenty of call buttons still have the appropriate arrow on them even when they're on the top and bottom floors.
    • Book 14, chapter 7 ("The Case of the Marvelous Egg"): Wilford Wiggins claims to have bred chickens that can lay square eggs. He comes up with a lame handwave as to why he simply can't show them, and claims instead that he'll stage a publicity stunt by having the skydiver standing with him jump holding one in a box only to have it still intact afterwards but needs money for promotion. Encyclopedia calls him out because the skydiver is wearing only one parachute, and all jump with two in case one fails...because there's no chance that someone might wear something different to a publicity event than during actual skydiving. Granted the con man does describe his accomplice as dressed "ready to jump", but considering the whole absurdity of the situation (the convenient excuse as to why he can't just show the eggs, the fact that a square probably would be crushed if held by a skydiver anyway, why such a stunt would even be necessary to promote square eggs, and of course, what the hell besides novelty value is the benefit of square eggs anyway?) it seems kind of silly that Encyclopedia quibbles over such a minor technicality. The "Solution" page at the end of the book even admits that had Wiggins not embellished his con by bringing his friend along, Encyclopedia would have had nothing to use against him and he could've successfully screwed the kids out of their money.
    • Book 14, chapter 10 ("The Case of the Thermos Bottle"): Bugs Meany holds a raffle drawing at a fair for a baseball glove and has one of his friends reach around for another associate's balls in the big container of ping-pong balls. Encyclopedia discovers he was cheating by noticing that Bugs drank a canned soda when he was carrying around a thermos, thus meaning he put the ball in the freezer, then took it to the fairgrounds in the thermos so the associate would just have to feel around for a frozen ball. It's entirely possible that Bugs simply didn't want whatever was in his thermos at that particular moment or was saving it for later. Or that he'd already emptied his thermos, and found himself wanting another drink.
    • Book 15, chapter 1 ("The Case of the Supermarket Shopper"): The perp buys time to rob his victim's house by asking the victim to add four tubes of toothpaste to his supermarket order of seven items. This required the victim to check out in a regular shopping lane instead of the 10-items-or-less express lane, which otherwise would have allowed him to return in time to see his house being robbed. Brown figures it out because the perp was the last of the victim's friends to ask for items, and his order was too plainly designed to surpass the Express Lane Limit. Of course, the fact that the perp counted on both the victim and grocery staff to obey the letter of the express lane rules had the express lane been opennote  pretty much means he deserved to get caught. Even Donald Sobol (the author) seemed to realize that this one was flimsy; Mrs. Brown specifically mentions that the store is notorious for demanding exactly ten items for the express lane.
    • Book 15, chapter 10 ("The Case of the Marathon Runner"): A case had a kid that finished last in a race correctly identify a song being played at a theater along the race route as "The Eyes of Texas" (The University of Texas one) rather than the original tune it was adapted from, "I've Been Working on the Railroad," "proving" she stopped to ensure that she would finish last. Even assuming it was a lyricless version (which would be a dead giveaway), given it's the University's school song anyone who knows "The Eyes of Texas" is likely a graduate or a fan of their sports team in the first place, and the song is only a minute long anyway.
    • Book 16, chapter 7 ("The Case of the Hard-luck Boy"): A contest is held in which contestants complete a quiz for 3 secret prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. The first place winner receives the best prize: a watch, which he discovers has been broken. The theory of the crime is one of the contestants secretly examined the prizes and played with the watch and broke it. The culprit turns out to be the 2nd place girl that purposely missed a question she should have gotten right: "Name a word that has three double-letters." The girl referred to herself as a "bookkeeper". This doesn't account for the possibility that the word simply slipped her mind at that exact moment. Or perhaps she can't spell it — thinks it only has one k, for example, or thinks it's two words. Or perhaps she hyphenates the word, as "book-keeper" (a valid, if rather old, spelling), splitting one of the double letters.
    • Book 16, chapter 10 ("The Case of the Mysterious Handprints"): Two precious ivory bookends belonging to a former circus owner are stolen when two of the man's friends are visiting. Encyclopedia and his father find strange handprints in the beach near the circus owner's house, and so suspicion falls on one of the visitors, a crippled acrobat, because the only way he could have walked was on his hands. Encyclopedia, however, insists that the thief is in fact the other visitor, a former bareback rider, because she said her leather gloves were missing, and "no one brings leather gloves to a seaside town in the summer." (Again, an assumption of concrete fact out of a generalization, but even so she could have brought the gloves for a legitimate reason like playing golf, as driving gloves, or even riding a horse. Or maybe she packed them by accident.)
    • Book 17, chapter 1 ("The Case of the Masked Robber"): Encyclopedia's dad described a case to him after the fact that involved a professional tennis instructor who reported that a set of ivory screens had been stolen that morning. He saw the thief's face; it could be either of two identical twins — one who worked as a cashier and one who played tennis. Encyclopedia figures out that the victim was just lying so he could get insurance money for the screens, because the crook was wearing a T-shirt, and if the tennis player had been the culprit, one arm would be more developed, while equal arms would incriminate the cashier. This assumes that the cashier had the presence of mind to make such an astute observation, and also assumes the untrue "fact" that all tennis players have asymmetrical arms.
    • Book 17, chapter 6 ("The Case of the Painting Contest"): A sailor wins a painting contest open only to amateurs. He is called out as a professional painter pretending to be a sailor because he failed to do the research on nautical terminology: he used terms like "left" or "right" when describing a boat he was painting rather than the nautical terms like "port" or "starboard", as well as the redundant phrase "knots per hour"note , mistakes that no one remotely familiar with sailing would have made regardless of their expertise level. However, while "he's a professional painter trying to pass as an amateur" is the most likely explanation for the masquerade and was probably sufficient grounds on its face to get him disqualified, he might have had other reasons for the pretense and it's not ironclad evidence he's an actual professional.
    • Book 18, chapter 2 ("The Case of the Teacup"): Bugs steals an antique teacup. When Encyclopedia confronts him about it, Bugs claims that that it was a prized cup from the owner of a Chinese restaurant that has since gone out of business. Encyclopedia deduces that he's lying by noticing that the cup has a handle, which Chinese teacups do not have. (Because it's impossible for a Chinese guy to like American mugs, and of course, with globalisation Chinese teacups with handles do exist now.)
    • Book 18, chapter 9 ("The Case of the Disgusting Sneakers"): One story had a girl having one of her sneakers stolen from her before a sneaker contest was held. The thief was identified because she said to another person that the girl had the sneaker stolen from her "while clipping her toenails", even though all the girl said was that she was "clipping her nails". And only the thief would know that she had been clipping her toenails and not her fingernails (even though if someone said she had her sneaker stolen while clipping her nails before a contest involving feet, most would immediately assume the nails WERE toenails, not fingernails.) There's no reason to take your shoes off to clip your fingernails, and it's a safe bet a person would notice someone stealing shoes that they were wearing at the time, making it even less of a stretch to assume that toenails were meant.
    • Book 20, chapter 6 ("The Case of Pablo's Nose"): A perp is accused of stealing something that belonged to Encyclopedia's client, and riding away on her bicycle. She claims that she hasn't ridden her bike all summer, before she takes it out of storage and starts showing off on it. Encyclopedia declares that she's lying, because if she hadn't ridden the bicycle like she claimed, the tires would have gone flat. (Because it's impossible that the girl or her parents could have kept the tires inflated in case she ever decided she wanted to go for a bike ride.)
    • Book 22, chapter 4 ("The Case of the Roman-Numeral Robber"): The perp claims to have been out of town during the crime, but knows details about some contemporaneous local event (because, clearly, he never talks to anyone about local events or reads newspapers).
    • A boy blows his fake alibi by tracing a shirt pocket on the wrong side of his chest. This is perfectly understandable, since everyone is accustomed to seeing images of themselves in the mirror, where left and right are flipped.
    • A man tries to claim insurance money on a painting he's reported stolen. His story goes that while shaving after a shower, he saw reflected in the mirror a man stalking away with the painting. Encyclopedia explains that the claim is a fraud because a mirror would be foggy after a shower and so the man wouldn't have been able to see anything. (Never mind that it only takes a second to wipe away condensation, something people often do when they need to shave. Or cold showers, or how movement and shapes are still discernible through a foggy mirror. Or how some people use a fan or leave the bathroom door open specifically so that the mirror doesn't fog up in the first place. And finally, as Science Marches On, fog-free mirrors now exist.)
    • Still another case hinged on the detective's belief that a real resident of San Francisco would never ever refer to the city as "Frisco." While it's true that residents of the city traditionally hate that nickname, it's not exactly an enforced law, at least not since Emperor Norton died.
    • In one story, a man claimed an item of his had been stolen during a thunderstorm. The house was dark because the power was out. He was awoken by a thunderclap, then saw the burglar in the lightning flash that followed. E Brown knew that the man was lying (he had actually stolen his own property for the insurance money, then made up the story), since in real life, thunder follows lightning, not the other way around. Of course, it's inconceivable that there would be more than one lightning flash during the course of a thunderstorm.
    • One case was solved because the culprit claimed their wobbly table was knocked and various possessions spilled on the floor. EB points out that the table was three-legged, and that such tables can't tilt. Three-legged tables won't be wobbly even if the legs are different lengths. However, if the table was on a slant to begin with, jostling it might very well knock it over, or at least knock the items off.
  • Conviction by Counterfactual Clue: Frequently used, as the series often bases the solution of mysteries on assertions that a certain event could not have happened as described for a particular reason. In some cases, the reason would make the event unlikely, but not impossible. Other times, the reason is simply false. This was a former Trope Namer for this as well — Encyclopedia Browned (a pun on Dan Browned). Specific examples include:
    • Book 1, chapter 3 ("The Case of the Civil War Sword"): Bugs Meany claims to have a sword from The American Civil War, and says it's authentic due to the engraving showing that it was given to Stonewall Jackson by Robert E. Lee after the First Battle of Bull Run. The 'correct' answer was that the sword was fake, because nobody would have called it FIRST Bull Run until there had been a Second Bull Run (and the sword was dated August 21, 1861, just a month after the first battle — although given how long it can take to commission, make, retrieve, and engrave a sword, it's entirely possible that the second battle a year later already happened by the time the sword was actually finished), and that Confederate forces did not refer to either battle as Bull Run at all, but rather as the Battles of Manassasnote . However, there's an even bigger hole in the story: General Lee wasn't present for the First Battle of Bull Run/Manassas: the Confederates there were led by P.G.T. Beauregard. (Sobol edited the epilogue in later editions to include this fact.)
    • Book 1, chapter 5 ("The Case of the Bank Robber"): Encyclopedia Brown deduces that the blind witness is lying because he has a newspaper in his room. Ignoring all the reasons one might have a newspaper one can't read in one's roomnote , it isn't even necessarily true that blind people can't read newspapers. Most legally "blind" people still have some amount of vision, and depending on the exact nature of the vision loss, it's entirely possible to be able to read a newspaper (perhaps with magnification).
    • Book 2, chapter 8 ("The Case of Excalibur"): Supplies the page quote, in which one kid with a cast on his left arm is accused of stealing a penknife, and in fact it's found in his pants pocket in his locker. However, the "proof" that he didn't do it is found in that the knife is in his left pocket, and, according to Encyclopedia, it's impossible to put something in the opposite pocket of the hand they're in while running, as Bugs Meany claims happened. It might be more difficult for some than others, and there would be very little logical reason to do so, but it's certainly not impossible for everyone. Though in a technical subversion of this trope, the pants pocket scene isn't actually the final conviction per se.
    • Book 4, chapter 9 ("The Case of the Murder Man"): In the Show Within a Show (a two-man stage show) portrayed in the chapter, the solution to the crime lay in the fact that the murderer didn't leave prints, and "it was too hot for gloves," so they arrested the guy in gloves. Plenty of people wear gloves for all kind of reasons and in all kinds of weather.
    • Book 7, chapter 1 ("The Case of the Electric Clock"): The culprit's alibi was that, when he walked past the victim's house, he heard the electric clock (which was unplugged when the crime was committed) ticking, the contradiction being that electric clocks don't tick. When this was first written, (back in the 1970s), this was Conviction by Contradiction, though questions like "How loud would it have to be ticking to be audible outside the house?" and "Exactly how is this an alibi anyway?" might arise. Today, we can skip straight to the fact that some electric clocks — particularly analog clocks in which the second hand jumps from one mark to another and an early kind of digital clock where numbers were written on flaps that showed in succession (as shown in Groundhog Day among others) — do make sounds that, while distinct from pendulum-regulated clocks, are described as "ticking". Additionally, some digital clocks that indicate seconds will play an artificial ticking sound.
    • Book 9, chapter 6 ("The Case of the Tooth Puller"): Encyclopedia pins a crime on a magician because he was wearing short sleeves. He claimed that all magicians wore long sleeves so that they could pull objects out of them... except good magicians don't need anything of the sort. Many, in fact, wear short sleeves solely to impress people with the undeniable fact they have nothing up them, and at least one group performs magic in the nude. There are entire styles of magic that depend on (for example) marked cards, psychological tricks, or props with trap doors, for which sleeves are completely useless. Even in cartoons, stage magicians as a whole tend to have the catchphrase "nothing up my sleeves", as they roll them up before a trick.
    • Book 12, chapter 5 ("The Case of the Mysterious Thief"): The case was "solved" (by Sally, not Encyclopedia) because a couple sat in a restaurant with the man's back to the wall rather than the woman's, from which Sally deduced that each was actually a member of the other gender in disguise. This is because of a rule of etiquette that the woman should sit against the wall, so she can see and be seen. For this to be evidence, it would have to be the case that people followed this "rule" with no, or at best, very few exceptions; only Sally had ever heard of it. This same solution supposes that the victim is a woman so strong only a man could've knocked her out with one punch, ignoring the fact that the victim is, well, a very strong woman, which by itself admits that very strong women exist.
      • From a meta perspective this "solution" also ignores what a big piece of the books' internal logic "girls can be even tougher than boys" really is. The canonical reason the bullies Encyclopedia outsmarts don't try to get even by just punching his teeth out is his partnership with Sally, who beats up anyone who tries. The books go so far as to actually call her his bodyguard whenever they explain this.
    • Book 15, chapter 5 ("The Case of Hilbert's Song"): The solution relies on the fact that the culprit had used glycerin tears that fell from the outside corners of her eyes instead of the inside, thus revealing them to be fake, as "If only one tear falls, it will run from the inside corner of the eye, by the nose, and not from the outside corner." Only, none of that is true; how tears flow from a person's eyes is a function of the physical shape of their eyelids, nose and cheek, not to mention the orientation of the head relative to gravity's pull.
    • Book 15, chapter 6 ("The Case of the Crowing Rooster"): The solution is based entirely on the supposed 'fact' that roosters only crow when they saw light, apparently based on the urban legend that roosters crow at sunrise. The crime was a con man trying to convince kids he found a way to make roosters crow on command, but actually uncovering the cage so they saw light and thought it was sunrise; he claimed that he would soon improve the device to make hens cluck on command, and that whenever hens clucked, they laid an egg. Anybody who has been around a rooster for an extended period of time will know full well that they crow whenever the heck they want, whether the sun is out or not. And, of course, the hen part of his story should have been clearly false, especially since he was targeting the con towards chicken farmers.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: Book 7, chapter 5 ("The Case of the Junk Sculptor") has Encyclopedia investigate when a friend's bicycle gets a wheel stolen. The culprit was a young artist who was collecting junk to use in his works. When he's caught, he returns the bicycle wheel. He also tries to return the rest of the junk to the other people he stole from only to find they didn't want it back because it was junk. They even tell him they would have let him have it if he'd just asked, something he admits he never thought to do.
  • Counting Bullets: Book 2, chapter 4 ("The Case of the Forgetful Sheriff") has Encyclopedia on vacation in Texas, listening to a story about a 19th century sheriff being hanged because the bank president figured out he'd lied about killing a gang of bandits. Encyclopedia echoes the banker by realizing the sheriff would've had to fire seven bullets from a six-gun for that story to be true.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Sally versus any boy she has to fight. About the only time when Encyclopedia doesn't think she can win against a particular bully, in book 2, chapter 10 ("The Case of the Stomach Puncher"), he decides not to tell her about the case and instead handles the bully himself (via wearing a piece of sheet metal and tricking Biff into punching him there).
  • 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.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: In book 15 1/2, chapter 3 ("The Case of the Fourth of July Artist"), Wilford Wiggins' scheme involves making a painting and trying to pass it off as a famous historical painting. Encyclopedia and Sally note that he seems to be a legitimately talented artist, and wonder why he doesn't just sell his paintings as they are.
  • Deceptively Simple Demonstration: In book 15, chapter 6 ("The Case of the Crowing Rooster"), High-School Hustler Wilford Wiggins tries to sell a device he claims can controls birds, and demonstrates this by having a rooster crow at sunset, as opposed to sunrise. Encyclopedia ruins the scam by pointing out that since the rooster was kept in a bag before hand, the bird probably thought it was sunrise and Wilford's so-called invention did nothing. (Of course, this isn't how roosters work.)
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Inverted; after Encyclopedia solves a challenge mystery that Sally presents to him in book 1, chapter 4 ("The Case of Merko's Grandson"), he hires her as his bodyguard. She also provides good common sense like not keeping his earnings in a shoe-box, as seen in book 1, chapter 5 ("The Case of the Bank Robber").
  • Deliberate Under-Performance: Encyclopedia himself does this; he doesn't want to seem too different from the other boys his age, so he deliberately takes his time answering questions on school tests.
  • Depending on the Artist: Illustrations of the characters do vary.
    • Encyclopedia himself is usually depicted as an ordinary looking boy in the original book illustrations. When the individual stories got reprinted in textbooks or magazines, Encyclopedia was illustrated wearing glasses and/or a Conspicuous Trenchcoat.
    • Illustrations of Bugs Meany in both the original books and in the aforementioned reprints showed him as being tall and lanky. This is contrast to the live-action TV show where Bugs was much fatter.
  • Depending on the Writer: Bugs Meany ranges from "made a simple mistake" to "complete idiot" depending on the story. One of his dumbest moments was in book 17, chapter 3 ("The Case of Bug's Zebra"), when he drew a zebra with horizontal stripes.
  • Disqualification-Induced Victory: Inverted in the ending of Book 16, chapter 7 ("The Case of the Hard-luck Boy"), where Encyclopedia believes that the runner-up in a language contest deliberately threw the last round (the question asked about a word with three pairs of letters in a row, and the girl in question referred to herself as a bookkeeper) because she accidentally broke the prize for first place, so she decided to deliberately try for second or third in order to get a working prize rather than the one she broke. When she's confronted with this, she admits the truth and cedes her own prize to the winner in place of the broken one.
  • DIY Dentistry: Book 9, chapter 6 ("The Case of the Tooth Puller") has this as part of a carnival game, which involves pulling loose teeth tied to a pool cue by using it to sink a ball.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: One recurring character is Charlie Stewart, a boy who collects animal teeth, who usually walks around barefoot in the hopes of finding new specimens under his feet.
  • Dowsing Device: Book 3, chapter 5 ("The Case of the Divining Rod") has Ace Kurash claiming to have found a way to use divining rods to find gold, and "demonstrated" his ability by using the rod to find a gold brick. Encyclopedia was able to stop his friends from buying rods from the budding con artist by explaining why the gold had to be fake. (Short version, gold is extremely heavy, and a solid gold brick of that size would have weighed three hundred pounds — far too heavy for someone to lift above their head singlehandedly, like Ace did.)
  • 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.
    • Book 6, chapter 7 ("The Case of the Missing Ring") has a variant where the culprit just has amnesia rather than dying, but leaves a confusing note that only makes sense once Encyclopedia realizes that the victim had swapped all instances of the letter "c" with "v" and vice versa.
    • Book 12, chapter 4 ("The Case of the Hidden Will") has a variant involving a clue in a dead man's will, because he knew in life that one of his sons had cheated him.
  • Eagle-Eye Detection: Several Encyclopedia Brown mysteries are solved this way.
  • Eating Contest:
    • Book 4, chapter 8 ("The Case of the Blueberry Pies") involves a variant — with the new rules this year, the competitors have to finish two blueberry pies, with fork and knife (the woman in charge disapproves of eating with your hands, calling it "a disgrace"), and then run half a mile to the finish line. Encyclopedia winds up proving that the winners cheated via Twin Switch — one ate the pies, and then sneakily switched places with their twin during the race; they're disqualified as a result, and Encyclopedia's friend Chester wins.
    • Encyclopedia's friend Chester is noted as competing in other eating contests in other books.
  • Encyclopaedic Knowledge: Encyclopedia Brown got his nickname by knowing so much about so many subjects that he was like a walking encyclopedia.
  • Enemy Eats Your Lunch:
    • In book 11, chapter 10 ("The Case of the Salami Sandwich"), Ziggy Ketcham (who works in a department store) tells Encyclopedia that he has to hide his lunch every day so his coworker Al Noshman, who's a very fast eater, won't steal it from him. He also explains that Noshman has gone out of his way to make sure Ziggy has to bring his own lunch, since Ziggy can't afford to go to a restaurant every day and, the one time they went to a restaurant together, Noshman treated the staff extremely rudely, embarrassing Ziggy and ensuring he wouldn't ever want to do that again.
    • Bugs Meany has repeatedly made trouble for kids so he can steal food from them, as in book 5, chapter 1 ("The Case of the Missing Clues"), where he scares off would-be customers from a fruit stand and helps himself to the merchandise; book 15 1/2, chapter 1 ("The Case of the Missing Garlic Bread"), where he and his gang steal garlic bread and a chocolate cake from another boy; book 17, chapter 2 ("The Case of the Round Pizza"), where he steals a boy's pizza, and book 21, chapter 2 ("The Case of the Invisible Writing"), where he trades a phony method of making writing disappear and reappear for a key lime pie. Encyclopedia usually has to step in and make him pay up for (or return, if he hasn't eaten it yet) what he swiped.
  • Enemy Mine:
    • The one time that Bugs is even remotely on Encyclopedia's side, it's in book 1, chapter 4 ("The Case of Merko's Grandson"), when Encyclopedia and Sally are facing off in a mystery-solving contest.
    • They're also technically on the same side whenever Wilford Wiggins is involved, since Bugs hates Wilford as much as Encyclopedia and Sally do.
  • Engineered Heroics: In book 2, chapter 6 ("The Case of the Two-Fisted Poet"), Encyclopedia catches a guy in the act when he notices that his glasses emerge unscathed despite putting them in a place that supposedly took a lot of punches. Encyclopedia whispered this in Sally's ear. She wasn't pleased.
  • 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.
    • In book 15, chapter 4 ("The Case of the Ugliest Dog"), 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.
  • Excited Show Title!: Book 15 1/2, Encyclopedia Brown Takes the Cake!
  • Express Lane Limit: The solution to book 15, chapter 1 ("The Case of the Supermarket Shopper") depended on the victim's strict adherence to this trope, and the fact that the non-express checkout lanes at the local supermarket took forever.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Book 11, chapter 10 ("The Case of the Salami Sandwich") introduces Ziggy Ketchum, who's notorious for this. The narration mentions that he once hired the title character to find his wristwatch when it was on his other wrist the whole time.
  • Fairplay Whodunnit: All the mysteries are deliberately like this, 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.
  • Fake Mystery: Book 3, chapter 8 ("The Case of the Stolen Diamonds") has Encyclopedia and his father, Police Chief Brown, cook up a pretend jewelry heist as a game for a convention of police officers from across the country. It also works as an In-Universe example, as the solution to the heist is that there wasn't one — the owner of the jewels staged the crime to collect on a valuable insurance policy.
  • Faking and Entering: Used in book 1, chapter 1 ("The Case of Natty Nat"), the very first case in the series, in which a man accuses known burglar Natty Nat of robbing his store when he'd really spent the money and didn't want his partner to know.
  • False Teeth Tomfoolery: In book 10, chapter 4 ("The Case of the False Teeth"), the plot involves Duke Kelly of the Tigers stealing Freddy Zacharias's collection of false teeth and using them as castanets.
  • Flat World: Discussed in book 23, chapter 3 ("The Case of the Black Horse"), where one of the kids in the neighborhood is Waldo Emerson, president and only member of the Idaville Junior Flat Earth Society. He is so firmly convinced that the world is actually flat that he flips out whenever he hears the word "round" in any context. One can only imagine his reaction to receiving a round globe as a prize in a contest, which happens to him in the book.
  • Forgetful Jones: Ziggy Ketchum, the most absent-minded boy in Idaville. In book 11, chapter 10 ("The Case of the Salami Sandwich"), it's mentioned that he once hired Encyclopedia to find the wristwatch he'd supposedly lost... which he was wearing on the wrong wrist. In the same chapter, he comes to Encyclopedia and explains that the day before, he'd hidden a sandwich somewhere in the department store where he works (so his coworker wouldn't steal it) and now he can't find it, or the list he kept of where he was hiding his food each day that week. Fortunately, Encyclopedia helps him find the list and, after studying it and realizing just what item of clothing Ziggy had hidden his food with (which he was remembering wrong), recover the missing sandwich. Later, as described in book 26, chapter 5 ("The Case of Grandma's Cookies"), he wants to hire Encyclopedia, but first has to be reminded of why he's standing outside Encyclopedia's garage with a quarter in hand.
  • Frame-Up: Bugs Meany repeatedly tries to frame Encyclopedia and Sally for some crime or another, as revenge for their stopping his past schemes. Other crooks do it too, but they usually have different targets and are doing it to cover up their own crimes, such as book 2, chapter 2 ("The Case of the Balloon Man"), where the titular balloon man is framed for kidnapping a child and has actually been kidnapped too.
  • Fresh Clue:
    • Inverted in book 1, chapter 2 ("The Case of the Scattered Cards"), the first Bugs Meany story, where he claims that he just put up a tent on a rainy morning, while Encyclopedia'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 book 1, chapter 6 ("The Case of the Happy Nephew"). Encyclopedia 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.
    • Played straight in book 8, chapter 8 ("The Case of the Apple Cider") when a perp offers Encyclopedia apple cider that has supposedly been sitting in an unused shed for months — the cider is still unfermented, which tells him the shed has been used recently.
  • Fun with Acronyms: In a sense. Book 13, chapter 1 ("The Case of the Midnight Visitor") 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 Homophones:
    • Book 5, chapter 7 ("The Case of Cupid's Arrow") has a diamond theft solved by the detective announcing the diamond is "an arrow flight away" (it was taken out of its case, attached to an arrow, and shot out the window). The guilty person was the only one who thought to look outside because he knew a bow and arrow were involved, everyone else assumed the diamond was upstairs, i.e. "a narrow flight" of stairs away.
    • In book 8, chapter 6 ("The Case of the Flower Can"), a thief accidentally drops a valuable Confederate coin into a can filled with flowers. Encyclopedia knows he'll try to get it back, so he sets a trap. When a man comes to the door claiming to be selling magazines, a woman hands him a can of flour and says she put the coin in "the flour can". Instead of dumping out the flour to look for the coin, he searches until he finds the can filled with flowers, thus proving that he's the thief. Only the thief would think that she was talking about a "flower" can.
  • Fun with Palindromes: Used in the solution to book 10, chapter 8 ("The Case of the Broken Globe"). 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 (it turns out they'd been goofing around while the teacher was out and broke the globe by accident).
  • Funny Phone Misunderstanding: Book 16, chapter 4 ("The Case of the Angry Girl") uses this trope as its solution. The neighborhood Romeo, Tyrone Taylor, leaves a romantic message for his latest sweetheart, only for her to furiously tell him off and beat the stuffing out of him. Encyclopedia investigates and realizes that her little sister, who took the message, inadvertently punctuated it wrong, making the compliments seem like insults: "I want to say you're amazing. I can't stop thinking that you're the most beautiful girl in town" becomes "I want to say you're amazing—I can't. Stop thinking that you're the most beautiful girl in town," for example.
  • Gambit Roulette/Literature: In book 15, chapter 1 ("The Case of the Supermarket Shopper"), a robber plans to strike as the victim does his grocery shopping, but calculates he won't have enough time. No problem, just ask him to pick up four tubes of toothpaste, extending his grocery list from 7 to 11 items and thus forcing him to take a non-express lane. So the plan is: Our victim won't question why the man wants four tubes of toothpaste and will proceed to buy them all. Our victim will be honorable and take a non-express lane for being one item over (since that fourth tube of toothpaste was so important). This will slow our victim down significantly enough to finish robbing his house. (This one, at least, was given a Hand Wave — apparently the supermarket in question is notorious for all of its non-express lanes being glacially slow, and the item limit enforcement for the speed counter being unusually strict.)
  • Gender-Blender Name: Book 1, chapter 9 ("The Case of the Missing Roller Skates") features this as the key to solving the case (a male doctor named Vivian) — while it's technically a unisex name, it's more commonly associated with women. Jody Turner, one of Encyclopedia's friends, also has one.
  • Genius Bruiser: Sally, particularly on cases where gender is a plot point.
  • Gentleman Thief: Book 23, chapter 1 ("The Case of the Rhyming Robber") describes the titular "Rhyming Robber" as one, who steals from people, then hides the loot and sends them a poem hinting at where he hid it. If they haven't found it themselves in a week, he recovers it himself and then starts all over again. Encyclopedia figures out one of his clues, allowing the police to nab him when he goes to his latest hiding place.
  • Get-Rich-Quick Scheme: Encyclopedia is always foiling the scams of a local high school dropout named Wilford Wiggins who keeps trying to get the local kids to give him their money via some new and exciting scheme. Examples include book 15 1/2, chapter 3 ("The Case of the Fourth of July Artist"), involving a genuine painting of the Liberty Bell (which cracked 13 years or so after the artist died); book 8, chapter 5 ("The Case of the Model Universe"), which involves building a museum containing an accurate scale replica of the solar system (even with a half-inch model of the Earth, the solar system is still too big), or book 5, chapter 10 ("The Case of the Muscle Maker") where he tries to sell a muscle building powder (if the test subject had really put on that much muscle in so short a time, the jacket he bought before bulking up wouldn't still fit). Bugs Meany and other kids have tried it too.
  • The Glasses Come Off: Book 2, chapter 6 ("The Case of the Two-Fisted Poet") has a subversion when a snooty newcomer to the neighborhood tries to romance the detective's Action Girl sidekick Sally. To impress her, the newcomer fights with a bully who is rude to them on a date, putting his glasses away in his chest pocket before getting into a long, drawn out fight where the bully lands many punches on his chest. When he pulls out his glasses after the fight and they are fine, Encyclopedia points out to Sally that if the fight were real the glasses should have been broken considering all the punches the bully was landing in the chest area. She promptly lays out the would-be boyfriend herself.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Bugs' arranging a competition between Encyclopedia and Sally in book 1, chapter 4 ("The Case of Merko's Grandson"). 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: Book 11, chapter 6 ("The Case of the Silver Dollar") involves Encyclopedia solving the case of who stole Chauncy Throckmorton's clothes, leaving him naked in the woods.
  • Grammar Correction Gag: Book 16, chapter 4 ("The Case of the Angry Girl") has this as the cause of a mystery. Tyrone Taylor, the neighborhood Lothario, dictated a love note to his latest crush's little sister. Unfortunately, because he didn't tell her the punctuation, she added it in herself, turning the romantic line "I can't stop thinking you're the prettiest girl in the world" into "I can't. Stop thinking you're the prettiest girl in the world." He gets a fist to the gut due to this.
  • Guns Are Useless: Averted. It doesn't come up much because the kinds of "crimes" Encyclopedia gets personally involved with usually top out at school bully hijinks, but whenever he hears somebody firing off a gun, he's realistically reluctant to be the main party involved with confronting the gunman, such as in book 12, chapter 1 ("The Case of the Dead Eagles"). After all, he's a ten-year-old kid, what's he going to do?
  • Heavy Sleeper: One of Encyclopedia's camping buddies, Benny Breslin, has this trait (and to top it off, he snores incredibly loud). It's become a plot point to a case more than once.
  • Hidden Depths: While best known for being a Big Eater, book 18, chapter 6 ("The Case of the Brain Game") notes that Chester Jenkins is smart enough to have won the Brain Game at Tyrone Taylor's birthday party one year, and only came in second during the events of the story because Tyrone sneaked the last answer to the girl he was currently romancing. Even Sally can't see past his food focus before Encyclopedia reminds her about his previous victory.
  • High-School Hustler: Multiple ones throughout the series, who cheat to con someone out of money or other valuables.
    • Bugs Meany, introduced in book 1, chapter 2 ("The Case of the Scattered Cards") is a recurring one (though not in the aforementioned case).
    • Book 1, chapter 10 ("The Case of the Champion Egg-Spinner") has Eddie Phelan hustle some of Encyclopedia's friends via challenging them to egg-spinning contests (the egg that spins the longest wins) and somehow winning every time. It turns out he cheated by hard-boiling his egg. Encyclopedia, to guarantee fairness in the next match, makes the competitors switch eggs; Eddie loses and agrees to return all the prizes he won for his cheating, while getting back the one prize he'd just lost.
    • Book 3, chapter 5 ("The Case of the Divining Rod") features seventeen-year-old Ace Kurash, who tries to scam kids with a fake Dowsing Device.
    • Book 5, chapter 10 ("The Case of the Muscle Maker") introduces Wilford Wiggins, a teenage dropout and con artist who spends all his time hatching schemes to cheat little kids out of their money, and becomes a recurring antagonist throughout the series.
  • Hold My Glasses: Key to the case in book 2, chapter 6 ("The Case of the Two-Fisted Poet"). Percy Arbuthnot goes on a date with Sally and gets into a fight to defend her honor, 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, beating him up until he fakes unconsciousness to get her to back off.
  • Hollywood Density: In book 3, chapter 5 ("The Case of the Divining Rod"), the density of gold was used to prove that the supposed gold ingots were really just bricks spray-painted gold, as there is no way a kid could lift a brick-sized bar of gold with one hand. Although if you're dumb enough to confuse a spray-painted brick for real gold...
  • Hollywood Law:
    • Book 1, chapter 4 ("The Case of Merko's Grandson"), the story that introduces Sally and has her present 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 is revealed in the solution to be a woman — and thus 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.
    • Bugs Meany repeatedly tries to frame Encyclopedia for something, only for the other boy to prove that the accusations are bogus. Knowingly filing a fraudulent criminal complaint is a crime in and of itself in 99% of police jurisdictions, so Bugs' attempts to get the police chief's son arrested for crimes that never happened should have gotten him arrested and thrown into a juvenile detention facility by the end of the third book. And even if he was released, the police would likely ignore any later accusations from Bugs on that grounds that he was a known perjurer.
  • Hollywood Silencer: In book 4, chapter 9 ("The Case of the Murder Man"), Encyclopedia recommends that a friend use a silenced gun in a school play because it'd be less embarrassing than yelling "bang bang!" Strangely, the illustration shows him using a revolver, even though silencers are ineffective on revolvers in real life because the gap between the cylinder and the barrel emits gasses that create noise even if the barrel is silenced.
  • Human Ladder: In book 21, chapter 5 ("The Case of the Fig Thieves"), the mystery is who was picking figs from someone's tree. The suspects prove that, even one standing on the other's shoulders, they can't reach the figs. But if they switched places and the boy with longer arms was on top, then of course they could. And did.
  • 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). Book 3. chapter 1 ("The Case of the Mysterious Tramp") also has Encyclopedia do this in a non-mystery setting when he chooses to fib to his mother and claim that he went fishing in a very dirty body of water, rather than tell her the truth — he got dirt and oil on him while helping out one of his old teachers when she had a problem with her car's engine.
  • Hostile Hitchhiker: Book 2, chapter 5 ("The Case of the Hungry Hitchhiker") has Encyclopedia riding along with his father when they pick up a hitchhiker, who claims that he saw a car full of thieves pass. Midway through the drive, Encyclopedia realizes that the "hitchhiker" is a member of the gang and has to figure out a way to tell his father without alerting the crook.
  • Hustler: While not as common as the high-school variant, some of the adults in the series are also out to con someone out of money or other valuables. For example, book 2, chapter 9 ("The Case of the Glass of Ginger Ale") has one who tricks a friend into betting their violins against one another, challenging the friend to figure out how the hustler replaced a glass of ice cubes in a safe with a glass of ginger ale without being detected. As with the aforementioned Eddie Phelan, he cheated — he brought ice cubes made from ginger ale, and just waited for it to melt.
  • I Ate WHAT?!: In book 15 1/2, chapter 9 ("The Case of the Missing Watchgoose"), Encyclopedia is squicked out, mad at himself, and horrified when figuring out the "chicken" he accepted from two men was actually the remains of the goose he was hired to find and a friend's pet guard bird. He goes My God, What Have I Done? when remembering that chicken doesn't have "dark" meat.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: This happens quite a bit, and is how most of Encyclopedia's suspects incriminate themselves. Not generally for murders, but it happens. Examples include:
    • Book 1, chapter 8 ("The Case of the Knife in the Watermelon") had Encyclopedia figuring out which member of a gang robbed a grocery store, his only piece of evidence being a knife left stuck into a watermelon. When confronting the gang, one of the members says the blade of his knife is a half-inch longer... despite the knife never having been taken out of the melon, and the watermelon specifically having been described as "huge" so that even the longer knife blade would still be completely hidden. True to form, the member in question turns out to have been the robber.
    • Book 1, chapter 9 ("The Case of the Missing Roller Skates") has a pair of roller-skates stolen from Encyclopedia while the latter was at the dentist. He asks his main suspect (a kid who had a doctor's appointment in the same building) if he was in Dr. Vivian Wilson's office. The kid claims "I never heard of him until you mentioned his name" and that he didn't go near Wilson's office because he "had a sprained wrist, not a toothache". In other words, despite supposedly never having heard of him, the kid not only knew that Dr. Wilson was a dentist but that he was a man despite his first name being "Vivian".
    • Book 2, chapter 7 ("The Case of the Wounded Toe") has someone getting shot in the foot by a BB gun. One of Bugs' friends shows up, and Encyclopedia tells him to run to the kid's house and get his shoe. The kid grabs the correct shoe, and Encyclopedia points out that unless he was the one who shot him, he couldn't have known which shoe to get. An innocent person would have had a 50 percent chance of guessing right, but would probably have asked 'Which shoe?' or, upon realizing they hadn't asked which one, brought both back.
  • I Never Told You My Name: Book 4, chapter 1 ("The Case of the Marble Shooter") has a variation. Encyclopedia's client asks him to investigate Bugs Meaney for some infraction. He also insists on being addressed as "Al" which is short for his full first name (which he finds embarrassing). Sure enough, Encyclopedia takes him to Bugs Meany and introduces him as Al, but Meany claims to have never met him before. Then, two of Meany's Tigers enter and he introduces the client as "Algernon" and not one of many other names that "Al" could be short for. This is what breaks the case.
  • Impersonating an Officer: In book 11, chapter 4 ("The Case of the Counterfeit Bill"), Encyclopedia fingers a man impersonating a policeman as the culprit. Encyclopedia realized he was a fake due to him putting on his badge on the right side of his chest. Policemen are supposed to wear it over their hearts, on the left side.
  • In-Universe Factoid Failure: Used constantly to provide Encyclopedia with the clues to solve a case.
    • Most books have a chapter where Wilford Wiggins tries to scam a crowd with some sort of big project or such. Every time, Encyclopedia is there to point out the huge error that makes the whole thing useless — for instance, book 6, chapter 4 ("The Case of the Cave Drawings") has him trying to sell a dinosaur dig with a drawing of a dinosaur attacking a caveman. Justified in that Wilford is a high school dropout.
    • Bugs Meany falls into this with a few of his scams. In book 1, chapter 3 ("The Case of the Civil War Sword"), he tries to sell an "authentic" Confederate Civil War sword, proudly showing the engraving of it being presented after "The First Battle of Bull Run." Encyclopedia dryly points out it would have been odd to engrave that at a time when no one knew there would be a second battle.note 
  • Informed Ability: Sally is supposedly on roughly the same level as Encyclopedia, intellectually. It's only ever applied a few times. One occasion is in book 1, chapter 4 ("The Case of Merko's Grandson"), 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 in book 2, chapter 6 ("The Case of the Two-Fisted Poet") when Encyclopedia drops the hint about Percy's glasses. Despite the fact that until then she's almost swooning in adoration, she realizes 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 tends to fall into this trope, despite being the chief of police. His son can usually solve the case, though. Mentioned in the books that he can usually solve the case on his own and that it's only about once a month or so he needs Encyclopedia's help. Still not the best record, though.
  • Insurance Fraud: Multiple cases in the series involve people attempting to defraud an insurance company. Examples include:
    • In book 3, chapter 8 ("The Case of the Stolen Diamonds"), a convention of police chiefs is being held in Idaville. Encyclopedia comes up with the idea of making up a crime for them to solve, which involves a store owner claiming his store was robbed of a valuable diamond necklace — the solution reveals it was a glass duplicate that was stolen, and his intention was to defraud his store and his business partner for the insurance money.
    • In book 4, chapter 3 ("The Case of the Underwater Car"), Encyclopedia once witnessed a man attempting this by crashing his car and faking a back injury. However, Encyclopedia notices that the tires on the man's "brand new" car are worn out, indicating he sold them before doing the deed.
  • Invisible Writing:
    • Book 21, chapter 2 ("The Case of the Invisible Writing") has Bugs Meany claim to have developed a way to make writing disappear (using a lightbulb rubbed with a ruby from Baghdad) and reappear (via a bulb rubbed white with a sacred alter stone from ancient Egypt). It's a fraud, of course.
    • Book 24, chapter 1 ("The Case of the Forgetful Jewel Thief") features this, using onion juice as the ink of choice.
  • Ironic Name: Encyclopedia probably hates being called Leroy, because he's not "the baddest man in the whole damned town" or "meaner than a junkyard dog", and especially doesn't want to "look like a jigsaw puzzle with a couple of pieces gone".
  • It Was with You All Along: In book 11, chapter 10 ("The Case of the Salami Sandwich"), the absent-minded Ziggy Ketcham is mentioned as having once hired Encyclopedia to find his wristwatch. Encyclopedia found it on his other wrist.
  • I Was Beaten by a Girl: This is how Bugs reacted to his first meeting with Sally, and he can never live it down, it seems.
  • "Jar of Jellybeans" Contest: Book 6, chapter 2 ("The Case of the Dwarf's Beard") has one of these in its backstory. The case itself focuses on how the kid who won the contest had his prize stolen by Bugs Meany.
  • Just One Little Mistake: Most cases in the series revolve around the culprit having made a single mistake when reporting their alibi, which reveals they're lying.
  • Kangaroo Pouch Ride: In book 9, chapter 9 ("The Case of the World Traveler"), a kid tells a bunch of stories about his travels around the world in order to secure membership in some sort of club only for Encyclopedia to claim he's lying his ass off. The "male kangaroo with marsupial pouch" mistake is one of the many errors in the kid's stories.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Downplayed with Bugs Meany. On one hand, he is frequently called out on his trickery and sometimes even publicly humiliated. On the other hand, he frequently files false police reports against Encyclopedia (son of the police chief) with no consequences.
    • In book 2, chapter 9 ("The Case of the Glass of Ginger Ale"), a blind violinist's friend cheated him out of an expensive violin during a bet, that he could 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: Encyclopedia himself. Notable here is the fact that his father is a police officer who knows of his son's activities, and is somewhat embarrassed that the smartest detective in town is a fifth-grader.
  • Kirk Summation: The answers in the back of each book. In the show Encyclopedia gives them more succinctly.
  • Lazy Bum: Wilford Wiggins is described in book 26, chapter 9 ("The Case of the Shipwreck") as being "peppy as a pillow". He dropped out of high school and doesn't even think of getting a job. He tries to make money through cons, and he's such a lazy slug that he only tries to con little kids who probably don't have all that much money to begin with.
  • Left Your Lifesaver Behind: In book 2, chapter 4 ("The Case of the Forgetful Sheriff"), a story is told of how the titular character (who lived eighty years before) forgot his gun when he went out to confront a band of thieves. When this was discovered, a posse of citizens went after him and found him standing over the dead bodies of the thieves, having wrestled a gun away from one and killed all five with it. Subverted when it turns out he hadn't forgotten his weapon at all — he was a member of the gang and didn't think he'd need his gun for the meeting. He grabbed one from one of the other robbers and killed them all due to a disagreement over how to split up the loot.
  • Linked List Clue Methodology: Book 17, chapter 4 ("The Case of the Treasure Hunt") relies on this. The participants each receive a card with a clue leading them to a location with another clue, which leads to the third clue, and so on. The mystery of the chapter is how to alter the last clue to trip up a person who spied on the man hiding the clues, and so already knows the final location.
  • 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.
  • "London, England" Syndrome: Book 6, chapter 5 ("The Case of the Wanted Man") has this as its solution. The culprit included a list of locations that are seemingly overseas — London, Paris, Odessa, Athens, Jerusalem and Palestine — but doesn't specify the countries. Encyclopedia, however, identifies the culprit as having flown to Texas, where cities by all those namesnote  also exist, in part because Palestine didn't exist as a country at the time.
  • Long-Running Book Series: The series ran for 49 years (from 1963 to 2012) and 29 books.
  • Lost Pet Grievance: Book 15 1/2, chapter 9 ("The Case of the Missing Watchgoose") has one of Encyclopedia's friends hires him to find a missing goose. She explains they are guard animals but she's attached to Columbus Day, the bird that has vanished. While Encyclopedia finds it ridiculous to go on a literal Wild Goose Chase, he sympathizes and agrees to help. He finds out too late that two men slaughtered the goose Columbus Day and cooked it for their morning meal. Needless to say, the epilogue features the girl crushed that her pet is dead.
  • Lost Will and Testament: In book 12, chapter 4 ("The Case of the Hidden Will"), Brandon King has hidden his will and shared the location with his lawyer, but forbade him from revealing the location until ninety days after his death. Per the conditions he set up, three of his sons will inherit if it's found before the due date. If not, everything goes to the magician's union instead. Three of the sons want to find the will, and the fourth pretends he wants to as well; in fact, he's been disinherited and knows it, but after Mr. King dies, the disinherited brother joins the others in asking Chief Brown for help so as not to incriminate himself.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: In book 11, chapter 6 ("The Case of the Silver Dollar"), when Chauncy van Throckmorton is stripped and left in the woods, his biggest concern is that his socks clash with his underwear.
  • Meaningful Name: Bugs (as in "criminally or otherwise unstable") Meany (he's mean).
  • Mugging the Monster: In book 1, chapter 9 ("The Case of the Missing Roller Skates"), 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
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: School bully Bugs Meany.
  • 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, in book 1, chapter 2 ("The Case of the Scattered Cards") he merely threatened to call the cops on him. Courageously averted in book 2, chapter 10 ("The Case of the Stomach Puncher") though, where 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.)
  • Non Sequitur, *Thud*: In nearly every book, the tale of Encyclopedia's sidekick, Sally Kimball, pounding some sense into bully Bugs Meany, leaving him muttering "deal the cards" or "about the price of yo-yos in China." Different books have it being different things, but he always gets an NST at some point. She beats him up multiple times, and he usually has one each time.
  • 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).
  • Not Me This Time: In book 20, chapter 9 ("The Case of the Racing Reptiles"), Spike Larson, one of Bugs Meany's lackeys, is accused of letting his snake eat another kid's lizards before a lizard race. It turns out that the Tiger member is actually innocent, and that Barry stole Spike's snake.
  • Obfuscating Disability: Deliberately invoked by the perp in book 1, chapter 5 ("The Case of the Bank Robber"), where the titular robber is in league with the beggar Blind Tom, whom Encyclopedia realizes is faking his blindness moments after meeting him.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • In book 2, chapter 5 ("The Case of the Hungry Hitchhiker"), this is Encyclopedia reacts 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. He keeps his cool, however, asking for another piece and writing a warning to his father on the wrapper.
    • Encyclopedia again in book 15 1/2, chapter 9 ("The Case of the Missing Watchgoose") 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.
  • Once an Episode: It's almost routine how the books contain key things in every volume:
    • The opening chapters talk of how crime-free Idaville is and that no one would suspect it's because of Encyclopedia. The first chapter then has Chief Brown bringing home a case which Encyclopedia solves.
    • The second chapter has Encyclopedia helping a kid out with Bugs Meany.
    • The next opens with Bugs remembering how Sally punched him out long ago. It then has him attempting to frame Encyclopedia and Sally for a crime.
    • Midway through several books, Wilford Wiggins calls up a meeting for his latest get-rich-quick scam.
  • One of the Boys: Encyclopedia's sidekick Sally Kimball. Sally suffered from inconsistent characterization and ranged from this trope to "regular girl who just happens to be able to punch like a truck" and just about everywhere in between.
  • 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 (amazingly) Bugs are usually the only people who doubt Wilford Wiggins whenever he does one of his cons.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: In book 2, chapter 6 ("The Case of the Two-Fisted Poet"), Sally considers giving up her bodyguard duty to Encyclopedia when she falls for Percy Arbuthnot, who believes that fighting isn't "ladylike". This annoys Encyclopedia enough to reveal that Percy is a phony.
  • Our Cryptids Are More Mysterious: Book 11, chapter 3 ("The Case of the Skunk Ape") involved Encyclopedia investigating a "Skunk Ape", the Idaville version of an abominable snowman. Of course, it's only Bugs Meany again.
  • Outdated Name: "Bugs" (as in "Bugs Meany", who made his debut in the mid-twentieth century) or "Bugsy" was a reasonably common nickname in the '30s for someone known to be a little crazy, especially if their given name started with B. The slang and nickname (not the literal word usage referring to insects note , however), fell out of usage.
  • Passed-Over Inheritance: In book 12, chapter 4 ("The Case of the Hidden Will"), Brandon King disinherited one of his four sons in his will, since the son had stolen from his father's business. He also set up a Game Between Heirs so that unless his will (which he'd hidden, telling only his lawyer where it was) was found within ninety days of his passing, all the brothers would be disinherited.
  • Phone-In Detective: Encyclopedia sometimes, especially when solving cases for his father over dinner.
  • Platonic Boy/Girl Heroes: Encyclopedia and Sally.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Encyclopedia and Sally, reader comments about them making "a cute couple" (and their being ten-year-olds) aside. Lampshaded in book 6, chapter 9 ("The Case of the Falling Woman") by a kid photographer who saw them sitting on a couch together and tried to take a picture. At which point she almost attacked him with a lamp (justifiably, since she thought he was The Peeping Tom until Encyclopedia recognized him).
    • Even the Onion's satirical obituary of Encyclopedia has Sally described as his ex-wife, though the fact she's named as "Sally Kimball-Brown" in the article suggests the divorce was at least amicable.
  • Polar Bears and Penguins: Provides the solution to book 4, chapter 5 ("The Case of the Explorer's Money") — the stuffed penguins are out of place in a display of items from the North Pole, and had been brought as gifts by a thief who stole from his host and hid the money inside the penguins, intending to buy them at auction after the host died.
  • Police Are Useless:
    • After almost 25 cases in which Bugs is proven wrong, the cops still don't immediately haul Bugs off to jail. 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. These are the only times they consistently mess up though.
    • Book 25, chapter 1 ("The Case of the Hollow Tree") opens with a case where one cop really is in need of better training, being something of a newbie (he's introduced when he mistakes Chief Brown, arriving to join him in staking out the location where a robber is due to arrive soon, as the crook). After the case is closed, the newbie is sent back to the police academy for a remedial class on stakeouts.
  • Pressure Point: Book 5, chapter 2 ("The Case of the Super-Secret Hold") has Bugs Meany demonstrate his "judo" skills, including a pressure point knockout. Encyclopedia Brown points out that it's faked because the targets went stiff and fell backward, but human physiology causes someone rendered unconscious while standing on flat ground to naturally go limp and fall forwards.
  • Publicity Stunt: In book 3, chapter 9 ("The Case of the Missing Statue"), a statue is stolen just before the premiere of Linda Wentworth's film about a statue that is stolen. Turns out the whole thing is a setup to promote said film.
  • Pun: Whenever an alternate name for the Tigers is mentioned, such as suggesting they should be called the Steel Clocks because "they were always giving some kid a hard time".
  • Punched Across the Room: In book 2, chapter 10 ("The Case of the Stomach Puncher"), sixteen-year-old bully Biff Logan hits Encyclopedia in the stomach. Fortunately, Encyclopedia was warned of Biff's habits and so wore a piece of sheet metal under his clothes. As a result, he's knocked backward seven feet by the blow but emerges unharmed. Biff, on the other hand, is left yelping in pain.
  • Punctuation Changes the Meaning: In book 16, chapter 4 ("The Case of the Angry Girl"), Tyrone was writing a love letter via dictation over the phone one word at a time, but the punctuation wasn't dictated and turned the message into an insulting letter.
  • Puppy Love: Several cases that Encyclopedia solves involve friends of his or other kids around the same age as him and their love interests.
  • Race Lift: Some newer covers depict Encyclopedia Brown as Hispanic.
  • Randomly Reversed Letters: Encyclopedia sets up his detective agency in his father's garage, with a hand-lettered sign. Since he's a child genius, the sign presumably looks perfect. However, on some editions of the book, the publishers apparently took the "child" part of "child genius" and ran with it, reproducing his sign on the back cover of the books with random letters reversed.
  • Reading Lips:
    • The key to the solution of book 5, chapter 6 ("The Case of the Hair Driers"). When the owner of a hair salon is accosted while setting off for the bank, Encyclopedia suggests this was how one of the day's customers who'd been sitting under the (very loud) hair driers knew he was headed there. As in, she had to have been deaf.
    • In book 9, chapter 5 ("The Case of the Reward Money"), Wilford Wiggins speaks of a deaf friend who did this to spot two conspirators to an armored car holdup while on a bus. Except, the news of these men was over its loudspeaker, which he couldn't have heard to even know it was them.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: An unusual example in book 8, chapter 3 ("The Case of the Flying Submarine"). A new submarine slips out of its airlift, and Encyclopedia, Sally and the Tigers are the first people on the scene. The police arrive soon after to make sure nothing happens to the submarine before the military can show up and reclaim it. Bugs claims Encyclopedia was going to steal equipment from inside, and even though Bugs must be notorious as a crank and Encyclopedia helps his father crack important cases over the dinner table all the time, Chief Brown does his job and says he has to take the claim seriously. Of course it's proven to be a lie, but it shows what a good cop Chief Brown really is because he knows he can't pick sides no matter what.
  • Recycled Title: The Case of Wilford's Big Deal is used as a chapter title in both book 21 (chapter 8) and 28 (chapter 7).
  • Red Live Lobster: Subverted in book 12, chapter 2 ("The Case of the Hypnotism Lesson"), Bugs Meany offers a kid lessons on how to hypnotize a lobster, and takes an instant color photo of himself performing the stunt in order to prove he's legitimate. But when Encyclopedia sees the photo of Bugs "hypnotizing" a bright red lobster, he knows it was already boiled and dead at the time, and Bugs returns the kid's money.
  • Replaced with Replica: Book 3, chapter 8 ("The Case of the Stolen Diamonds"), features a fake case (made up to test a group of police chiefs from around the state, who are in Idaville for their yearly meeting) in which a group of crooks rob a jewelry store of a diamond necklace and aren't fooled by the glass replica that the store owner also had for exactly this purpose, as a decoy to throw off any would-be thieves. Except they "were", because they threw the first necklace to the stone floor, where it was undamaged, and ran off with the second. Had they thrown the replica, it would have broken, whereas the diamond one wouldn't. The owner made up the theft to get the insurance money on the necklace.
  • Rescue Romance: Subverted in book 2, chapter 6 ("The Case of the Two-Fisted Poet") — Sally's already interested in Percy to begin with, but he knows she's a Cute Bruiser and pre-arranges a mock battle with an older boy so he can show off when he takes her on a date. Sally's dizzy with delight until Encyclopedia whispers the give-away clue into her ear: Percy's glasses, which he'd put in his shirt pocket, are intact despite multiple body blows.
    Sally: W... why Percy! That wasn't a real fight at all! It was a fake! You fixed it!
    Percy: Upon my honour, if you were a boy I'd bash you good and proper!
    Sally: Forget I'm a girl.
    Percy: [snarls]
    [He goes down three times and gets up twice.]
    • The trope is subverted a second time in the same story: despite the fact that he's rescued her from having a misguided crush on a lying jerk, Encyclopedia and Sally never seem to be anything other than close friends.
  • Retronym: In-universe example in book 1, chapter 3 ("The Case of the Civil War Sword"), where it's a plot point that the First Battle of Bull Run would not have been called such until after the second.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Book 14, chapter 4 ("The Case of the Left-Handers Club") had Encyclopedia and Sally Kimball deduce that one of three men had an opportunity to call in a bomb scare at the left-handers convention. The culprit is, naturally, determined to be right-handed. The girl who hired them says that any of the suspects could have done it because they're "strange". She suggests the second one who comes under suspicion is strange because his left ear is higher than his right. Sally looks at the guy and tells her that it's actually an optical illusion because his left sideburn is longer than his right. He turns out to be the culprit, but Encyclopedia determines this because right-handed men have longer left sideburns due to not being able to reach it as well. The girl was right to suspect him because of his longer sideburn, but wrong in that he was the culprit because he was "strange".
  • Saying Too Much:
    • In almost every story involving Bugs Meany, this sort of thing gave Bugs away; he usually had to defend a lie with another lie that made what he said earlier contradictory.
    • In book 7, chapter 10 ("The Case of the 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 air rifles.
  • Schemer: Wilford Wiggins is a high school dropout who spends much of his time on get-rich-quick schemes designed to trick the town's kids out of their money. Whenever Encyclopedia hears about another one, he immediately sets out to stop him, and in many cases, he does so pro bono.
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax:
    • Book 9, chapter 10 ("The Case of the Lady Ghost") features a criminal who eludes the police by posing as a legendary Idaville ghost named Jennifer MacIntosh, who supposedly wanders the town's beach in her wedding dress, looking for her true love who was lost at sea. Encyclopedia is (naturally) skeptical of the people who claim that the beach is haunted—until he actually sees someone walking along the beach in a wedding dress, and notices that the mysterious figure never leaves footprints. It turns out that the perp actually hid a wooden board in the hem of his dress to sweep away his footprints; Encyclopedia sees through the illusion after noticing that the ghost's veil moves in the wind, but its dress doesn't.
    • Book 11, chapter 3 ("The Case of the Skunk Ape") involves Bugs Meany arranging one involving a fake Skunk Ape, a Bigfoot-like creature, which steals another kid's cello.
  • 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:
    • Book 15, chapter 10 ("The Case of the Marathon Runner") has one of Encyclopedia's friends trying to finish last place in a race, figuring that the last-place finisher will get the most time with the media. Another girl had the same idea, so Encyclopedia has to prove she cheated by shooting a hole in her story about stopping near a theater to hear the music being played within — apparently, to know the actual name of the song they were playing (rather than a more common song with the same tune), she'd have had to have gone inside, and therefore off the race course.Side note  He was right — she'd left the race course after two miles and only returned to the course for the last mile.
    • Book 16, chapter 7 ("The Case of the Hard-luck Boy") has a girl who deliberately wins second prize in a trivia contest, because she knows the watch that goes to the first-prize winner is broken (she herself had snooped and accidentally broken it).
  • Second Prize: Book 16, chapter 7 ("The Case of the Hard-luck Boy") has Encyclopedia prove that a contest participant deliberately lost on the last question to get second place because they'd accidentally broken the grand prize.
  • Secret Art:
    • In book 2, chapter 1 ("The Case of the Secret Pitch"), the case involves Bugs Meany claiming to have invented one of these — a cross-eyed pitch — and sold the secret to a famous baseball player. Having previously made a bet with another boy that he could do so, he wants the other boy to pay up. Encyclopedia proves he faked the letter and check from the player.
    • In book 5, chapter 2 ("The Case of the Super-Secret Hold"), 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, Encyclopedia proves it's a fake — the two boys fell backwards when it was used. In reality, people who pass out fall forward after their knees buckle. Sally promptly beats Bugs up.
  • Serial Romeo: Kid-anova Tyrone Taylor, who's always falling for one girl after another.
  • Serious Business:
    • Idaville seems to have a lot of unique contests that fit this trope, including shower singing (book 21, chapter 1 — "The Case of the Shower Singers"), mouse shows (book 21, chapter 6 — "The Case of the Mouse Show"), worn-out sayings contests (book 11, chapter 2 — "The Case of the Worn-Out Sayings"), 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.
  • Sesquipedalian Smith: "Encyclopedia" Brown. Somewhat subverted in that it's a nickname; his real name is Leroy, but only his parents and teachers call him that.
  • Shameful Strip: In book 11, chapter 6 ("The Case of the Silver Dollar"), Chauncy van Throckmorton, the best-dressed boy in Idaville, is forced to take off his clothes by a tough seventh-grade girl before eventually running off in just his shoes, socks and underwear. Worse yet for him, they clashed.
  • Shorttank: The tomboyish Sally Kimball, right down to the ambiguously romantic relationship with the protagonist.
  • Snake Oil Salesman: Several, with Ace Kurash as one of (if not the) first in book 3, chapter 5 ("The Case of the Divining Rod"). Wilford Wiggins is a recurring one, and Bugs Meany periodically gets into it too. Other one-shot examples appear in the later books, but regardless of who's doing so, Encyclopedia is always there to foil their "get rich quick" schemes.
  • Solid Gold Poop: Literal Metaphor, much? In book 8, chapter 2 ("The Case of Smelly Nellie"), Smelly Nellie finds $4,000 in ambergris(whale fecal stones!) while searching for clams. However, she couldn't carry the fifty-pound lump of concentrated air pollution on her own, and asks for some help from some skin divers — who turn out to be Bugs Meany and his gang, who promptly chase her off. Luckily, they're knocked senseless by the stench when it dries out in the sun, and are still there when Encyclopedia shows up with some adults. They then try to claim ownership of it, only for Encyclopedia to ask where they found it exactly. When the adults press the issue, Bugs says they found it on the ocean floor and rolled it to shore — and Encyclopedia points out that ambergris floats.
  • A Spy at the Spa: Inverted in book 5, chapter 6 ("The Case of the Hair Driers"), where a salon customer nabs an important secret from the owners because they think she can't hear them under the hairdryer. Turned out she can read lips because she was deaf to begin with.
  • Stock Lateral Thinking Puzzle: Book 1, chapter 4 ("The Case of Merko's Grandson") revolves around a variant of "The Doctor's Son", in which the solution reveals that a long-deceased trapeze artist is not the grandfather of the man trying to claim her money, but his grandmother.
  • 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:
    • In book 1, chapter 6 ("The Case of the Happy Nephew"), 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.
    • Book 7, chapter 10 ("The Case of the Foot Warmer") has the culprit bending over to pick up a straying baby, exposing his claim (that he was wearing something under his clothes that kept him from bending over at the time) as a lie.
  • Strong Girl, Smart Guy: Sally and Encyclopedia, respectively. Encyclopedia got his nickname because of his Encyclopedic Knowledge. His best friend, Sally Kimball, is a Cute Bruiser who acts as his bodyguard and frequently beats up male bullies (one of whom called them "Mr. Brains and Miss Muscles").
  • Supreme Chef: Mrs. Brown is supposed to be one. In book 15 1/2 (Encyclopedia Brown Takes the Cake!), it's revealed that she can whip up Fourth of July snacks as well as Chinese food if her son asks.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Book 9, chapter 7 ("The Case of the Girl Shortstop") has a girl who posed as a boy to play on a Little League team and got snitched on by one of her teammates (she seeks Encyclopedia's help to find out who). When he fingers the teammate, she gives him a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown.
  • Tattered Flag: In book 5, chapter 3 ("The Case of the Wagon Master"), Encyclopedia has a moment of In-Universe Fridge Logic and 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: Book 6, chapter 3 ("The Case of the Kidnapped Pigs") 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...
  • Tempting Fate: Inverted in book 1, chapter 6 ("The Case of the Happy Nephew"). When an armed robbery suspect seems to have an alibi, Chief Brown tells Encyclopedia they would need proof to accuse him. Encyclopedia smugly reveals the robber already gave himself away; a Straying Baby was playing on the suspect's car hood, when it should have been scalding hot from the driving he supposedly did.
  • 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.
  • Too Qualified to Apply:
    • Book 17, chapter 6 ("The Case of the Painting Contest") has a man who appears to be in the Navy enter an amateur painting contest. However, he gets numerous sailing terms wrong, calling into question his true identity. He turns out to be a professional painter and is disqualified. In the same chapter, it's mentioned that local child artist Pablo Pizarro also has to compete in the speed painting competition because the child's division was dropped that year — no other kid was willing to go against him in it.
    • In book 18, chapter 6 ("The Case of the Brain Game"), Encyclopedia attends Tyrone Taylor's birthday party. Every year, they hold several games, including the "brain game", a test of knowledge. Encyclopedia, it's said, has been banned from participating in that particular game since Tyrone's fifth birthday. He's not bitter about it though.
  • Treasure Hunt Episode: Book 7, chapter 6 ("The Case of the Treasure Map") revolves around a search for treasure on a small island. Winslow Brant found a treasure map which he and his friend Pete Alders used to look for a buried treasure, but Pete ruined the map when he used it to cover the porthole on their boat to keep the rising tide from spilling in. As Encyclopedia points out, the tide wouldn't have spilled in through the porthole because the boat and the porthole would have risen with it. It's ultimately revealed that the map is a souvenir from the World's Fair, but they decide not to tell Pete until he's worn himself out.
  • Twin Switch: In book 4, chapter 8 ("The Case of the Blueberry Pies"), Encyclopedia proves that two twins had done this to beat Chester Jenkins in a blueberry pie eating contest and sprint. He knew because the twin running the race had clean white teeth, when they should have been stained blue from the pie.
  • Unit Confusion: Book 17, chapter 6 ("The Case of the Painting Contest") referenced this trope in its solution, when a man claiming to be a sailor is revealed as a fraud because (among other mistakes) he refers to speed in terms of "knots per hour", when a knot is already a measure of time over distance, i.e. one nautical mile per hour.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: In book 16, chapter 4 ("The Case of the Angry Girl"), a 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.
  • Vacation Episode: In book 2, chapters 3 ("The Case of the Ambushed Cowboy") and 4 ("The Case of the Forgetful Sheriff") see Encyclopedia and his parents on a trip to Texas, their first vacation in three years.
  • Violently Protective Girlfriend: Sally Kimball. Not quite played straight, however; Encyclopedia pays Sally to be his bodyguard. To what extent her affections eventually become engaged is less clear, and there is at least one mystery — book 2, chapter 6 ("The Case of the Two-Fisted Poet") — in which she defends another guy against Encyclopedia's (correct) accusations, although not physically.
  • The War on Straw: In book 12, chapter 1 ("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: In book 1, chapter 6 ("The Case of the Happy Nephew"), Encyclopedia's father tells him this 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.
  • Went to the Great X in the Sky: In book 12, chapter 7 ("The Case of Lightfoot Louie"), Thad Dixon sadly tells Encyclopedia and Sally that due to an accident on his part, his pet worm, Sis-Boom-Bah, "went to that big mud hole in the sky".
  • What's a Henway?: In book 2, chapter 1 ("The Case of the Secret Pitch"), Speedy Flanagan asks Encyclopedia, "What do you know about Browning?" and Encyclopedia responded, "Not much, I've never browned."
  • 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. Some hints suggest that it's in the Southeast, and an Onion story spoofing the books put it in Florida. Book 11, chapter 3 ("The Case of the Skunk Ape") mentions that the Skunk Ape is "Idaville's version of Bigfoot", further suggesting Florida and the Southeast. In another case — book 18, chapter 5 ("The Case of the Rented Canoes") — thieves hid stolen fishing rods among the mangrove trees. Nearly all mangroves in the USA grow in Florida.
  • Why Didn't I Think of That?:
    • In book 7, chapter 5 ("The Case of the Junk Sculptor"), Pablo Pizarro is introduced having swiped a bunch of junk from people's yards and garages and used them to make his sculptures. When Encyclopedia uncovers his thefts after he stole a wheel off a boy's bicycle, he tries to return the junk but finds that not only does nobody (except the boy with the bicycle) want their junk back, they'd be glad to let him look through their property for more old and worn-out stuff he could use for his creations. At the end of the solution, he admits that "It never occurred to me to ask." (For permission to poke around, that is.)
    • In book 17, chapter 4 ("The Case of the Treasure Hunt"), during the annual Founder's Day treasure hunt for the children, the man running the event asks Encyclopedia and Sally for help in identifying the person who spied on him when he was placing the clues. Encyclopedia figures out how to just slightly modify the last clue so as to trip up the cheater, and while Mr. McPherson replaces the existing clue with the modified one, Encyclopedia and Sally go to the location where the original "You Won" card has been left and await the cheater's arrival. En route, Sally demands to know what Encyclopedia came up with, and says the trope name when Encyclopedia explains how the last clue will be modified to trip up the cheater. On his advice, Mr. McPherson changed the word "dairy" in the clue to "diary", switching just two letters. Consequently, the cheater doesn't look closely at it and goes to the original ending spot rather than the new one.
  • Wight in a Wedding Dress: Book 9, chapter 10 ("The Case of the Lady Ghost") features a man who was camping on the beach and bursts into the Brown home late at night, convinced he's just seen the ghost of Jennifer MacIntosh, a beach-walking figure from local legend, who walks the beaches in her bridal gown in search of her lost lover (who drowned at sea before they could get married). Turns out the wife of a man who'd held up a jewelry store not too long before used this to help cover for him.
  • Women Are Wiser: While Encyclopedia is generally shown as having more book smarts and can process available information faster, Sally has generally has him beat when it comes to emotion. She usually punctuates this by pointing out the reason he didn't get it was "because you're a boy."
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Bugs claims this is the only reason Sally can stand up to him.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: In book 1, chapter 7 ("The Case of the Diamond Necklace"), 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, followed by 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.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: In-universe, a numerical mistake provides the answer to a solution in book 2, chapter 4 ("The Case of the Forgetful Sheriff"). Nearly a hundred years before, a "forgetful sheriff" had claimed that after a bank robber shot him twice in the arm, the sheriff wrestled the gun away and killed the robber with one bullet. The other four robbers immediately showed up, and he shot them all with a single bullet each — seven bullets total. But he was also using a gun that could only hold six bullets, and neither the sheriff nor the original owner had had a chance to reload it. This mistake in counting led to the sheriff being exposed as a member of the gang himself, who'd turned on and shot his own allies in order to claim all the stolen money himself. He was promptly hanged the next day.
  • You Are Too Late: In book 15 1/2, chapter 9 ("The Case of the Missing Watchgoose"), 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.
  • Young Entrepreneur: The bulk of the title character's pocket money (aside from one instance where he was able to claim a sizable reward from a contest) comes from the detective agency he runs out of his garage. Did we mention Encyclopedia Brown is only eleven?

The HBO series also provides examples of the following tropes:

  • 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.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Encyclopedia is using his computer to list the suspects who could have taken the box. He jokingly lists Bugs Meany's motive as being a "bonehead". Despite herself, Sally laughs when she reads this.
  • 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.
  • Adults Are Useless: Played straight in the HBO series, where Encyclopedia's father is a good-natured buffoon who often points out that no one could imagine they're related.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Sally calls Encyclopedia "E.B."
  • Comedic Underwear Exposure: Encyclopedia "deduces" the color of Sally's underwear ... because she got dressed in a hurry that day, and they're sticking out of the back of her pants.
  • Demoted to Extra: Sally, who serves as The Watson to Encyclopedia; in a number of episodes Encyclopedia takes her lines and place in the tale.
  • Evil Is Petty: This is why Encyclopedia has Bugs Meany as low on the suspect list for whoever stole Ida's treasure box. The suspect needed a stronger motive than just being a "bonehead" because it's rumored to have something valuable in it. Bugs has no higher incentive than to cause trouble in Idaville.
  • 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 the chief of police and knows that his son isn't a thief.
  • Needle in a Stack of Needles: "The Case of the Amazing Race Car" had a plot mainly revolving around a missing derby boxcar. Other cases are picked up by Brown and Sally, including one where one of their friends accidentally took a bully's bike, mistaking it for his own. Encyclopedia then imagines being in a court, acting as a lawyer for the friend and eventually asserting that among a bunch of other bikes (though each were different), the bike in question could be mistaken for another. This became his "Eureka!" Moment as to how the boxcar could have been stolen.
    • He later invokes it when talking with Sally:
    Encyclopedia Brown: If you had a needle, where would you hide it?
    Sally: In a haystack?
    Encyclopedia: No, with a bunch of other needles. You can't tell which one's real because they all look alike.
  • Oh, Crap!: Encyclopedia has an excellent example of this expression when he comments on Sally stuffing a kid into a garbage bin for the terrible crime of calling her cute... which prompts her to outright ask him, "Do ''you'' think I'm cute?" in a teasing tone. He suddenly notices something that requires his full attention, evading the question. Sally's wry smile makes it clear she's fully aware of what he's doing.
  • Rockers Smash Guitars: When Encyclopedia thinks about who stole the time capsule, he imagines Casey breaking the plaque's seal by hitting it with his guitar.
  • Ship Tease: For Encyclopedia/Sally. The TV series, in its pilot episode alone, includes a Security Cling between the two, an Imagine Spot where Sally confesses her love to Encyclopedia, and the ending, where she kisses him on the cheek. Compare that to the books, which, in the series' entire run, contain a couple of arguable instances of Encyclopedia acting jealous around Sally's crushes.
  • 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 the grown man who stole Ida's treasure, who then locks her up when he catches her snooping around his yard.
  • Worthless Treasure Twist: Subverted. It turns out that Ida's box contained the rose she planted to stop a war. While the rose is withered due to being over a century old, Encyclopedia fondly says that he considers it a treasure, as the thief laments that the theft wasn't worth the crimes. Then he realizes that Ida's statue has a cavity space, holding another box. When the cops open it, they find a jeweled recreation of the flower, which is much more valuable in the monetary sense.


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