In this “charming” and melancholic novel, a former child sleuth “investigates the hard-to-crack case of Lost Innocence” (Entertainment Weekly).
A Chicago Tribune, Kirkus Reviews, and Booklist Book of the Year
In the twilight of a mysterious childhood full of wonder, Billy Argo, boy detective, is brokenhearted to find that his younger sister and crime-solving partner, Caroline, has committed suicide. Ten years later, Billy, age thirty, returns from an extended stay at St. Vitus’ Hospital for the Mentally Ill to discover the world full of unimaginable strangeness: office buildings vanish without reason, small animals turn up without their heads, and cruel villains ride city buses to complete their evil schemes.
Lost within this unwelcoming place, Billy befriends two lonely, extraordinary children—one a science fair genius, the other a charming, silent bully. With a nearly forgotten bravery, he experiences the unendurable boredom of a telemarketing job; encounters a beautiful, desperate pickpocket; and confronts the nearly impossible solution to his sister’s case. Along a path laden with hidden clues and codes, the boy detective may learn the greatest secret of all: the necessity of the unknown.
“Haunted by the mystery of his sister’s death and feeling that a lapse in his sleuthing may be to blame, Billy is determined to find out the reason for her suicide and to punish those responsible . . . The story of Billy’s search for truth, love and redemption is surprising and absorbing. Swaddled in melancholy and gentle humor, it builds in power as the clues pile up.” —Publishers Weekly
“The author gives Billy a gallery of rogues to combat and even sends him to investigate the Convocation of Evil at a local hotel (‘Featured Panel: To Wear a Mask?’). Meno sets himself a complicated task, marooning his straight-arrow, pulp-fiction protagonist in a world uglier than the Bobbsey Twins ever faced but refusing to go for satire. Instead, the author takes his compulsive investigator at face value.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Comedic, imaginative, empathic . . . investigates the precincts of grief [and] our longing to combat chaos with reason.” —Booklist
Playing such mysteries as "The Case of the Brown Bunny" against the mysteries of mortality and mankind's capacity for evil, the latest from Meno (Bluebirds Used to Croon in the Choir) presents former child sleuth Billy Argo at 30, having just finished a 10-year stint in a mental hospital, where he was confined after his teenage sister Caroline's suicide. Unhappy, painfully shy and doped up on antianxiety drugs, Billy arrives in New York City and is admitted to a psych halfway house. Haunted by the mystery of his sister's death and feeling that a lapse in his sleuthing may be to blame, Billy is determined to find out the reason for her suicide and to punish those responsible. He soon finds allies in two bright and unpopular children who live across the street, and clues to relevant past cases from lifelong arch-enemy Professor Von Golum (who happens to live across the hall). Not all the plot strands pan out, and the effect is more impressionistic than narrative (various codes strewn throughout have their own digressive pleasures). But the story of Billy's search for truth, love and redemption is surprising and absorbing. Swaddled in melancholy and gentle humor, it builds in power as the clues pile up.