The Chameleon Wore Chartreuse: A Chet Gecko Mystery


Chet Gecko loves a good mystery. Almost more than he loves his fee—stinkbug pie. So when fellow fourth grader Shirley Chameleon asks him to find her missing brother, Billy, Chet expects the case to be as easy as pie. But Billy's disappearance is part of a larger plot, one that involves the Rat Sisters, a riddling junkyard dog, and a vicious Gila monster named Herman. If Chet doesn't solve the case fast, the entire school could be humiliated. Worst of all, Chet might not get his fee. And Chet's hungry. . . . •The ...

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The Chameleon Wore Chartreuse (Chet Gecko Series)

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Chet Gecko loves a good mystery. Almost more than he loves his fee—stinkbug pie. So when fellow fourth grader Shirley Chameleon asks him to find her missing brother, Billy, Chet expects the case to be as easy as pie. But Billy's disappearance is part of a larger plot, one that involves the Rat Sisters, a riddling junkyard dog, and a vicious Gila monster named Herman. If Chet doesn't solve the case fast, the entire school could be humiliated. Worst of all, Chet might not get his fee. And Chet's hungry. . . . •The first book in a zany new series that combines mystery with humor •A hip, character-based story and amusing illustrations in a fun format for middle grade readers

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Fourth-grade gumshoe Chet Gecko and his smart sidekick, Natalie Attired, search for a missing chameleon in the first whodunit, and follow up their suspicions that the principal is up to something in the second. PW said, "Beginning readers especially will appreciate the offbeat, likable cast and quirky comedy." Ages 8-12. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature - Children's Literature
Chet Gecko is a private eye--a fourth grade Sam Spade with a smart mouth, a fast tongue, and a trick tail. When his classmate, Shirley Chameleon, begs him to find her little brother, Billy, Gecko can't refuse. He's not a sucker for a damsel in distress--although she's the kind of girl he could fall for if he fell for girls. It's just that he can't turn down her stinkbug pie. But Billy is in with a bad crowd, and the search for the wayward first grader turns nasty. Chet suspects his disappearance has something to do with Herman, the dreaded Gila Monster. To solve this case, Gecko must find the Big Baboo and figure out "what you get when you cross a duck with a trash collector." Reluctantly, he accepts help from Natalie Attired, a good friend and the smartest mockingbird around. It's a tale of mushy secrets and revenge; fast-paced and "punny," a giggle a page from beginning to end. Delighted readers will eagerly await more mysteries "From the Tattered Casebook of Chet Gecko." 2000, Harcourt Inc., Ages 8 to 12, $14.00. Reviewer: Ellen R. Braaf—Children's Literature
School Library Journal
Gr 2-4-Chet Gecko, top private eye in the fourth grade, has the Sam Spade lingo down pat ("She was the kind of girl I could have fallen for. If I liked girls") but when it comes to detection, he literally doesn't have a clue. Retained by classmate Shirley Chameleon to locate her missing brother, he misinterprets obvious evidence and follows numerous red herrings. Eventually, Chet uncovers an evil plot against the school's football team, masterminded by Herman Gila Monster and his gang. Can Chet overcome gang members, sadistic teachers, and the detention dungeon to save the game and the day? The clever dialogue is filled with the kind of sarcastic similes that would have made Mickey Spillane proud. ("Brick snorted and giggled, a sound like two owls in a blender.") Even for satire, however, the book is often over the top. Adult characters are uniformly unattractive-gleefully cruel teachers, a sloppy coach, and a feline principal who sharpens his claws on the curtains. The gang's revenge, which leaves the detective suspended over a swimming pool to be chlorinated to death, is the sort of thing that might be expected of James Bond villains, but it's hardly the stuff of juvenile crime. This is far from an essential purchase, but it may resonate with young fans who want to go beyond Marjorie Sharmat's "Nate the Great" series (Delacorte).-Elaine E. Knight, Lincoln Elementary Schools, IL Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Meet Chet Gecko, fourth grade gumshoe: a private eye with a nose for trouble, a taste for stinkbug pie, and a detachable tail—all of which come into play in this hardboiled series kickoff. The trail to Shirley Chameleon's missing little brother, Jimmy, leads past Old Toady, first grade teacher with a Jell-o addiction, the Rat sisters Rizzo and Nadine, coach `Beef` Stroganoff, and worst of all, huge Herman the Gila Monster, booted off the football team for biting a referee. Along the way, Chet picks up plenty of clues and red herrings, bad jokes (`What do you get when you cross a duck with a trash collector?` `Down in the dumps.`) and a partner, multitalented mockingbird, Natalie Attired. In Hale's black and white illustrations, the motley assortment of tough-looking animals in school clothes will draw as many giggles as Chet's clipped narrative. The tale unwinds to a suitably chaotic climax involving narrow escapes, a football full of garbage and an invasion of yummy (to Chet) giant cockroaches. Here's a worthy successor to Cathy Stefanec-Ogren's Sly, P.I., (not reviewed), and a host of other scaled, furred or feathered sleuths. (Mail and on-line promos, author website, gecko costume available) (Fiction. 9-11)
From the Publisher
"Zesty and entertaining. The combination of school details, animal classmates, and homage to Raymond Chandler is glib but broadly and sustainedly humorous. . . . Young readers . . . will want to scuttle along with this schoolyard sleuth."
-The Bulletin

"Green-scaled gumshoe Chet Gecko hits his stride in this hard-boiled follow-up to The Chameleon Wore Chartreuse . . . Hale throws in wisecracks by the handful, terrible jokes . . . , and daffy clues. . . . Hold on to your fedoras: this gecko's going places."-Kirkus Reviews

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780152022815
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 4/28/2000
  • Series: Chet Gecko Series , #1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 112
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.74 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Meet the Author

Bruce Hale

BRUCE HALE is the author of Snoring Beauty, illustrated by Howard Fine, as well as the fifteen Chet Gecko mysteries. A popular speaker, teacher, and storyteller for children and adults, he lives in Santa Barbara, California.

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Read an Excerpt


The Case of the Long-Gone Lizard

Some cases start rough, some cases start easy. This one started with a dame. (That’s what we private eyes call a girl.)

It was a hot day in September. The kind of day when kindergartners wake up cranky from their naps. The kind of day when teachers pull their hair and dream of moving to Antarctica.

In other words, a normal school day.

I was watching a fly. He zigged and zagged over my desk. He flew barrel rolls and loop-de-loops. Near as I could tell, he was getting ready to sing "The Star Spangled Banner."

So I shot out my tongue and zapped him. Bull’s-eye. Midmorning snack.

"Nice shot, private eye."

I looked up. She was cute and green and scaly. She looked like trouble and she smelled like . . . grasshoppers.

Shirley Chameleon leaned on my desk. Her chartreuse scarf tickled my nose.

"Hey, Chet," she said.

"Hey, Shirley," I answered.

"Haven’t seen you around for a while," she said. "Where’ve you been?"

"Duh. Right here in class." I’ve always been fast with a comeback.

"Listen, I need your help," she said.

I checked out the classroom. Old Man Ratnose was busy grading papers. Tony Newt was scribbling rude designs on Walter Pigeon’s tail feathers while his brother stifled giggles. The other students were reading their books or quietly torturing each other. Kids.

"Okay, Shirley," I said. "Let’s step into my office."

We walked back behind the aquarium.

"Sit," I said. She sat. She turned a deep brown, to match the chair. Chameleons do that.

"Spill your guts," I said. She spilled.

"It’s my little brother, Billy," said Shirley.

I knew the kid. He had Day-Glo stripes and a bad attitude. He liked to light matches off his scales and put them out in his nostrils.

Pretty tough for a first grader.

"What’s up with Billy?" I asked Shirley. "Did he steal some kindergartner’s lunch money?"

"No, it’s not that, it’s—oh, never mind." Shirley shook her head and stood up. One tearful eye looked at me while her other eye watched a gnat flying above us. Chameleons do that.

"Yuck, stop it," I said. "Look at me with both eyes."

She did.

"I can’t help Billy unless you tell me what’s wrong," I said. "I need a lead."

"A what?"

"A lead. A place to start."

She dabbed at her eyes with a handkerchief. I zapped my tongue out and nailed the gnat. No sense in wasting good food. But I almost choked on the bug when she finally answered.

"Billy has disappeared," she said. "He never showed up for school. I found his book bag on the playground, and I—I just know something’s wrong." Shirley turned a lovely shade of blue.

She was the kind of girl I could have fallen for. If I liked girls.

"Couldn’t Billy be playing hooky?" I said.

"The last time he played hooky without me, I tied his tail into a knot."

I blinked. No wonder Billy had a bad attitude.

"Still, have you checked his usual hangouts?" I said. "You know, the mall, the sandbox, the tattoo parlor?"

"I tried all those places," said Shirley. "No luck. He’s gone."

"I wonder where he went," I said.

"Oh, that’s great." She pouted. "You’re some detective. You’re supposed to know these things."

"I’m a detective, not a mind reader," I said.

She grabbed my arm.

"Chet, you’ve got to find him today, before the football game."

"Why? Has he got the football?" I chuckled.

"It’s not funny. My family is coming to the game, and I’m supposed to watch Billy. If he’s not there, my mom will kill me."

Shirley shuddered and turned a little green around the gills (or where her gills would’ve been, if she’d been a fish).

"So, you don’t have anything for me to go on?" I said.

"There is one thing," she said. "At breakfast he said he had to meet with someone named Herman." She looked down. "I think Herman’s nickname is Monster, or something like that."

Swell. Just swell.

The first case of a new school year, and already things were looking bad. The last time Shirley saw her little brother, he was talking about meeting a Gila monster named Herman.

And most first graders would rather spend summer vacation in a box with the bogeyman than spend a few friendly minutes with Herman the Gila Monster.

It was going to be a long day.

Copyright © 2000 by Bruce Hale

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be submitted online at or mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

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