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Children's LiteratureHorowitz launches his "Diamond Brothers" mystery series with a funny and clever spoof of Bogart-inspired private-eye detective films. Bogart references abound, from the title (the Falcon is a crime lord, who has hidden the secret to his diamond stash in a box of "Malteasers," malted-milk chocolate candies), to the appearance of a world-weary cabaret singer named Lauren Bacardi who performs at the Casablanca Club. Thirteen-year-old Nick's older brother, Herbert (aka Tim Diamond), is a disastrously incompetent private detective, aided in solving the mystery of the hidden diamonds at every point by his sharp-eyed and sarcastic younger sibling. Horowitz provides a gallery of the usual sorts of eccentric suspects—a dead dwarf, a crazed criminal professor "who invented computer fraud five years before someone invented the computer," German thugs in matching suits named Gott and Himmel, and the oddly thin "Fat Man" who poisons London's pigeons just for fun. There are grisly murders aplenty (including one of a department-store Santa), and lots of seedy London atmosphere (though why everyone deals in dollars rather than pounds is a puzzle). Nick narrates the story in an amusing, breezy style: "I wish someone had told me it was Knock Out Nick Diamond Week in London"; "I've got better things to spend my pocket money on. New pockets, for example." The ingeniously plotted finale should leave young readers (at least, those who aren't averse to encountering a multiplicity of corpses) looking forward to the next installment of Nick's adventures. 2004 (orig. 1995), Philomel, Ages 9 to 12.
—Claudia Mills, Ph.D.