Eoin Colfer, author of the bestselling Artemis Fowl series, brings his trademark combination of humor, brilliant kids, gritty violence, and likable villains to a new setting. Fletcher is a nerdy wimp of a kid detective, with a sharp mind and an inner core of steel, who narrates the story in the style of a '40s potboiler. Much more interesting is his reluctant partner, Red -- son of a local gangster, with a heart of gold, a short fuse, the gift of cool charisma, and the skills of his heritage.
Fletcher receives an extraordinary lack of sympathy from any adult, including his parents, after he is beaten badly enough to require surgery, which, by the way, was more violent than necessary for the storyline. When a child is beaten unconscious by an adult with a club, it doesn't register as the humorous, cartoon violence the author seems to think it is. But overall this is a satisfying romp.