Saturday, March 27, 2010

Hard-Cover Comic: The Disappearance of Dave Warthog (The 3-2-3 Detective Agency) by Fiona Robinson

A serendipitous setting brings together unlikely traveling companions who decide to seek their fortunes in the big city as partners in a detective agency under the lead of Jenny Donkey.

They met on the 3:23 train to Whiska City. They started off as strangers, but quickly found something in common. Each wanted to start a new life in the big city...

What the travelers have in common is their intraspecies eccentricity! Roger the Dung Beetle, for example, hates dung, but, like Ratatouille the sous chef rat, yearns to become a gourmet cook. Slingshot is a sloth who never sleeps; he can't sit still and likes nothing more than high-speed chases. Priscilla the penguin longs to shed her basic black and white for colorful costumes and characters on stage, and Jenny the donkey longs to be a leader. Only Bluebell the rat is true to type: she likes to shrink into the landscape and observe the scene unseen. Suddenly Jenny sees that together her new friends have the right stuff to realize her dream--a detective agency where everyone's quirky special abilities can be put to good use.

And in Whiska City their dream seems to be an idea whose time has come. Beginning with Dave Warthog, animals are unexplainedly disappearing all over town, and Jenny hardly has time to equip and train her sleuths before clients are lining up, asking them to locate their missing loved ones. All of the missing seem to have one common link--all were potential customers of the NEW YOU SALON, Pootles Le Frizz, proprietor.

Jenny sends Priscilla in as undercover agent, impersonating a penguin with a personal problem--split ends--but when Priscilla penetrates the intricacies of the hair salon, she realizes that the pink-coiffed hairdressers and customers seem to have lost all individuality. Slingshot shadows the fast-moving Pootles LeFrizz, and all clues lead to nefarious goings-on inside Pristeena, a gated community which seems to accept only perfect (and pink-coiffed) residents. Can all the missing Whiskans be found as automaton servants, perfect prisoners inside Pristeena? The P.I.s of the 3-2-3 Agency, always spontaneously creative, turn cotton-candy from a nearby pushcart into pink coiffures for themselves and pretending to be potential buyers, penetrate the perilous Pristeena preserve, and the case is about to be cracked!

Robinson's appealing faux naif cartoon art, bright primary colors, and fast-moving story will appeal to beginning chapter mystery lovers and elementary graphic novel fans alike in the first book of her 3-2-3 Detective Agency Series, The 3-2-3 Detective Agency: The Disappearance of Dave Warthog (Amulet Books, 2009).

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