The Dark Side of the Playground

Half Moon Investigations bookcover

There are many detective novels out there in the world, and pretty much all will take their cues from Sherlock Holmes. And why not, let’s face it, the guy has done more to popularise the genre than any fad hopping sparkling pretty boy could ever hope to. When people think of ‘detective novel’, it can almost be guaranteed that their mind will turn to that little flat in Baker Street, and to a deerstalker hat and pipe.

Half Moon Investigations is not Sherlock Holmes, and frankly Moon would be getting a little fed up with all the comparisons, really. Written by Eoin Colfer – author of the phenonmally popular Artemis Fowl series – Half Moon Investigations is a charming little book that invites you to take a look at the dark side of the playground.

And yeah, charming, it’s really the best way to describe this novel. While the language is simplistic at best, Colfer peppers the novel with his traditional style of humour, while not shying away from the dark consequences that being a kid detective could have. But I’m getting ahead of myself and we haven’t even met our cast yet.

Our lead character comes in the form of 12 year old Fletcher Moon, nicknamed Half-Moon for his short stature, and you can guess how happy he feels about that name. Of relatively high intelligence, he’s spent the past 3 years studying through an online diploma course to become a detective. Newly graduated, and with his badge, he’s solved all the little crimes that the kids of his school have to offer, and is looking for a bigger challenge. Enter Red Sharkey, eldest son of the infamous Sharkey family. Red is a no good, dirty dealer, first name to be called whenever anything goes wrong. He’s first on the list of Fletcher’s suspects when investigating a series of thefts happening in their small town. Is Red really at fault?

Primarily, the novel is about not judging based on preconceptions, you could say. Each character has their own thoughts and ideas about other characters, and Colfer takes glee in showing exactly what parts of these ideas are right, wrong, and maybe just a bit exaggerated. This happens slowly, and helps the story to build and part of the fun is trying to work out the ending before it happens. Colfer really should try his hand at more detective stories, he’s quite good at them.

As far as lead characters go, Fletcher is a very compelling one, and his narrative reads like an old style film noir, which is the type of detective Fletcher would like to be, really. Red’s also a great secondary lead, the type that would have appropriately aged people swooning over his bad boy attitude, and brooding nature. The biggest draw of the novel is the dynamic between Fletcher and Red which progresses over the course of the story, from enemies, to unlikely work-mates, to… well, that would be spoiling you now, wouldn’t it?

Half Moon Investigations - TV logo

Half Moon Investigations is also the first of Colfer’s works to be adapted for the screen. In 2008, there was a sadly short-lived series on CBBC, also entitled Half Moon Investigations. Filmed in Scotland, the show worked as a nice little tribute to the story. As would be expected on a children’s show, acting varied but it kept to the tone of the novel very nicely, and the lead two were now joined by ace girl reporter Mia Stone, who added another layer to the dynamic that is amazingly fun to watch. Sadly, the show is not likely to ever appear on DVD, and rarely gets repeated. If you can find it, by all means, do check it out, but don’t hold out your hopes.

The book, however, is still freely available. It is a gripping little read, highly entertaining, and really, who doesn’t want to read about a kid solving crimes before bedtime?

… Just me then?

Z. McAspurren (So, if Fletcher is Colfer’s answer to Holmes, and Fowl was clearly his Moriarity, why haven’t the two met yet?)

Half Moon Investigations is available on Amazon.

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