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Personally, I'm a big fan of kids' books that are about adventure, danger and snooping around in a modern setting. I'm also a big fan of Slice Of Life stories. But unfortunately, neither side is done right here. Fortunately, though, they are hilarious.
The writing is amazingly inept. Not one character - kid, adult, or dog - acts convincing. The comedic Slice Of Life "kid antics" consist of such things as bullies pretending to be pirates and even carrying a soccer net to trap the heroes in, girls who crack eggs over boys' heads while the boys are reading the newspaper, and a teen slipping and falling in dog poo. Archie expresses amazement at the invention of a squirt gun (by his grandfather) and the concept of a water balloon, as if these were brand new to him, despite being twelve. It's hilarious in its ineptitude.
The other side of the story is the adventure elements. A hidden tunnel located in someone's backyard, disguised by a large plank of wood out in the open (who would ever spot that?), leads to hidden clues and stolen jewels. This results in some adventures around the town such as riding an inflatable raft across a river and into a reservoir, and sneaking into a graveyard and hiding behind a headstone (3 kids, 1 headstone) from construction workers.
These sound exciting and definitely could be, but instead it becomes an unintentional comedy. The writing style is full of Beige Prose, redundancy, and a great deal of Did Not Do The Research... on ANY subject! Any possible detail that's mentioned in any way will be gotten wrong, I guarantee. There are also bizarre, improbable (or impossible) events such as Archie throwing a key at a window to lure a vicious dog out of a house so it will chase the bad guys that are after him. Which works somehow.
Every single character is an idiot. Archie often fails to recognize the obvious (for example, if you hear moaning inside a crate, it shouldn't take 3 pages to realize there's a prisoner trapped there), the bad guys make blunders that guarantee that they'll get caught (like having the entrance to their secret tunnel in an open field), and yet this book is not a comedy.
It's a shame that my two favorite genres were combined into this glorious So Bad Its Good mess. Still, it's definitely worth checking out if you have a sense of humor.
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