I think y’all all know the drill by now. Let’s do this. You’re up, Encyclopedia Finds the Clues (Dutton 1966).
The Case of the Mysterious Tramp
The case: So Police Chief Brown comes home late for dinner because someone has beaten and robbed Mr. Clancy, the plumber. According to John Morgan, Clancy’s assistant, Clancy’s truck broke down near a farm and when Clancy lifts the truck to check the radiator, a mysterious tramp dashes out of the woods, hits Clancy with a pipe, and steals his wallet. Sounds plausible. Chief Brown theorizes that the tramp then dashed over to the nearby railroad tracks and jumped a train. He’s upset because he thinks this means that they’ll never catch the bad guy, thus ruining his perfect crime-solving record. Or so I inferred. Encyclopedia tells him not to worry because John Morgan did it and made up the story about the tramp to cover his tracks. How did Encyclopedia know that he was lying?
My verdict: Aside from the fact that it’s ridiculous to think some hobo was hiding out in the woods with a pipe on the off chance that someone’s car would break down, I’m not sure. It probably has something to do with the car breaking down which I don’t get because I know nothing about cars and I just call AAA when mine breaks down.
Was I right?: Not really. Clancy raises the hood when he checks the radiator, but Morgan says that after he sees the tramp attack, he gets out of the car to help Clancy. How did he see the attack if the hood was blocking the front windshield? This of course ignores the possibility that Morgan could have leaned out of the passenger window and to the shit go down, but yeah, it does raise suspicion about his statement.
Stray observations: At least two stories from every book involves the so-called victim or eye witness committing the crime but pinning the blame on someone else and the Chief falls for it EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. You’d think he would learn by now not to take every statement at face value. Also, Encyclopedia lies to his mom about why he’s late for dinner (he was helping one of his teachers to restart her stalled car) because he doesn’t like to talk about the help he gives grown-ups. Dude, helping a teacher with car trouble is a normal kid thing to do. At least in the age before cell phones. Lying to your mother because you don’t want to seem like you’re bragging is a dumb thing to do.
There have been many, many different covers for this book, but this is the cover for the one I checked out of the library. Plus it has Sally beating up that punk, Percy.
It’s time for another thrilling installment of Captain Awesome solves mysteries originally written for children! Yay! Up next: Encyclopdia Brown and the Case of the Secret Pitch (Dutton 1965). For those unfamiliar with the series, boy genius Encyclopedia Brown (neé Leroy) solves crimes and his Police Chief dad takes all the credit. He also opened his own detective agency for the kids (and occasionally the desperate and/or cheap adults) in the neighborhood. Other recurring characters include Encyclopedia’s partner, bodyguard, and kick-ass feminst icon, Sally Kimball; nemesis Bugs Meany; and teeth fetishist and future serial killer, Charlie Stewart. Now, on with the mystery solving!
The Case of the Secret Pitch
The case: Speedy Flanagan bet Bugs Meany his baseball bat (which was his first mistake) that Bugs couldn’t sell superstar Yankees pitcher, Spike Browning, a new pitch. Bugs shows Speedy and Encyclopedia a letter allegedly from Browning, dated June 31st, stating he was going to win 30 games with this new pitch. Encyclopedia calls bullshit and demands that Bugs give Speedy his baseball bat since he lost the bet. How did Encyclopedia know that Bugs was lying?
My verdict: Well at first I thought the answer stemmed from baseball knowledge. Do pitchers even pitch 30 games a season? And there were less games in the 60s, right? Maybe? But then I realized that the letter was dated June 31st and there is no June 31st.
Was I right?: Yes. Bugs might have gotten away with it if he wasn’t such an idiot.
Other Observations: Why do kids even make deals with Bugs anymore? Quite frankly I think Encyclopedia should just let them get scammed. It’s the only way they’ll learn.
Look, it’s those Civil War swords that the kids are so into these days!
While reading the many Donald J. Sobol obituaries last month, I was reminded of how much I loved the Encyclopedia Brown books as a kid. A kid solving mysteries? Sign me up! Of course the conceit of the series is that you’re supposed to try and solve the mystery along side of Encyclopedia but I almost never did. Now I was a smart kid, not Doogie Howser smart, but I could usually hold my own. But I always seemed to miss some obscure clue that would’ve broken the whole thing wide open. I started wondering if I, some (mumble-mumble) years older, would be able to solve the Encyclopedia Brown mysteries today. Yes, I’ve accrued a bit more knowledge since then but I’m also a great deal lazier than I once was. And thus, a blog post was born.
So just to set things up, here’s what I remember about the series. Leroy Brown, the son of the local Chief of Police, is so freakishly smart that he’s been given the nickname “Encyclopedia.” Do kids reading this today even know what an encyclopedia is? Would he be called “Wikipedia Brown” today? That’s depressing. Anyway, whenever Police Chief dad couldn’t solve a case, which seemed to happen with alarming regularity, he would tell the story over dinner and Encyclopedia would instantly figure out who did it. Of course the crimes never included any grisly murders or vicious assaults, so it’s not like Idaville was some hotbed of criminal activity. Encyclopedia is soooo good at solving crimes, that he decides to open his own detective agency to help the neighborhood kids from Bugs Meany, the local bully (and with that name, what else could he be but the local bully), and various other would-be hoodlums.
I’m starting my series re-read with the first in the series, Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective (Dutton, 1963).