Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Case of the Invisible Dog, by E.W. Hildick

When I was in third and fourth grades, I loved McGurk mysteries. My fourth grade teacher, so appreciative of their ability to keep me quiet, gave me her personal copy of The Case of the Invisible Dog. Now that my daughter likes mysteries, I thought this might be a good series for her to read.

Jack McGurk runs a neighborhood detective agency with three other kids: Joey is in charge of forensics, Willy is in charge of smelling, and Wanda is in charge of, well, being a girl, I guess. According to Snakes in Suits, McGurk is a sociopath, in that he uses the people around him for his own benefit, often telling them conflicting stories that are what they want to hear. (Although that book counsels against using it to diagnose others, I figure I'm okay because McGurk is a fictional character.) A neighborhood kid whose feelings have been hurt by being left out of the organization, exhibits all the traits of a budding comic book villain, creating an invisible dog to get even with McGurk and his yes-men. In the end McGurk figures out the truth about the invisible dog and invites the super villain to join them.

Reading this book as an adult, it's hard to say what it was I liked about McGurk. The fact is McGurk is a jerk. The narrator, Joey, is a good guy, and is pretty smart, but he discounts his own abilities because Hildick decided that McGurk should be the genius who solves all the mysteries. The rest of McGurk's organization is only there to tell McGurk how smart he is when he figures out the mystery, which he only does because Hildick gives him the answer. I once worked at a company with an owner like McGurk, who got everyone around him to think his insufferability was just a manifestation of his genius. Really he was just a dick.

I had better memories of McGurk than the material actually supports. If my daughter wants to read more books from this series on her own, that will be fine, but I doubt I'll read another with her.

Rating: 3.5 out of 7 giant inflatable monkeys.

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