The Copycat Caper: Book 3

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The third in a contemporary series just like Encyclopedia Brown, but with a little more brawn, and a lot more brainteasers!

Super-sleuth Charlie Collier is thinking about taking a hiatus from his detective agency to play a private eye in a school play—but when some real robberies stump the police, Charlie realizes that detective work really is his true calling.

He and his sidekicks Henry and Scarlett team up with Charlie’s ...

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The Copycat Caper: Book 3

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The third in a contemporary series just like Encyclopedia Brown, but with a little more brawn, and a lot more brainteasers!

Super-sleuth Charlie Collier is thinking about taking a hiatus from his detective agency to play a private eye in a school play—but when some real robberies stump the police, Charlie realizes that detective work really is his true calling.

He and his sidekicks Henry and Scarlett team up with Charlie’s grandma and her old buddy Eugene to set a trap for the robber—one they’re sure will catch him. But the trap doesn’t work out quite the way they thought it would, leaving Charlie, Henry and Scarlett in grave danger.

This high-stakes adventure is filled to the brim with brainteasers. Charlie can solve them all—can you?

What people are saying about Charlie Collier's first caper:

“I loved reading The Homemade Stuffing Caper. The mystery is challenging. The many characters in the book are great fun. I look forward to reading the next Charlie Collier story, and the next, and the next, and the . . .”—David A. Adler, author of the Cam Jansen mysteries
The Homemade Stuffing Caper is an exciting mystery, full of jokes and puns, as well as brainteasers and lots of detective work. This may be the first mystery you don’t want the detective to solve, because you won’t want it to end!”—Bookpage
“Brisk and absorbing, author John Madormo’s debut tips its fedora to hard-boiled classics with its ‘sixth-grader meets Sam Spade’ narration.”—FamilyFun Magazine
“With mysteries to solve, codes to decrypt, and an extended cast of colorful characters in tow, this first in a new series offers lots of mystery fans to chew on and will leave them hungry for the next installment.”—Booklist
A Bookpage Top Ten Summer Reading Selection for 2012

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
What would (fictional) Sam Solomon do? Charlie Collier, "weight-challenged" sixth-grade private eye, asks that question whenever he is faced with a dilemma. Charlie, along with sidekicks Henry and Scarlett solve cases large and small--from figuring out how to retrieve a tennis ball lost down a hole to capturing a serial burglar. This time, Charlie nearly misses out on the case because he gets roped into playing the lead in the class play opposite Scarlett, who still has little romantic use for him. When Charlie notices a connection between the burglaries and the re-released Sam Solomon radio dramas, he opens his business again, against his father's orders. Even his eccentric cryptographer grandmother, who shares the investigator gene with her grandson, makes it clear that this case is too dangerous. Only Charlie's encyclopedic knowledge of the Sam Solomon episodes--and his science teacher's frequent brainteasers--can save the day. A few missteps (it's hard to believe a bakery or a pet store would have more than $2,000 in the overnight till or that the thin boy on the cover is Charlie) take away from the action, but true fans will ignore them. Twenty-four short chapters move along at a clip to satisfy mystery fans, with plenty of red herrings and real clues sprinkled along the way. (Mystery. 9-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780399162565
  • Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Publication date: 9/26/2013
  • Series: Charlie Collier,Snoop for Hire Series , #3
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 791,754
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 720L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.86 (w) x 8.48 (h) x 1.11 (d)

Meet the Author

John V. Madormo is a college professor and a screenwriter and he’s good at brain teasers, just like Charlie Collier. He lives near Chicago, in Naperville, IL.
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Read an Excerpt

 Chapter 1

The Well-Disposed-Of Caper

Scarlett appeared impatient. “I’ve got better things to do with my time than wait around here for clients who may never show up.”

“I’ve told you before,” Henry said. “We have to maintain certain office hours for walk-ins. It’s the way we’ve always done things.”

“Well, then I’d like to propose a new policy,” she said. “From now on, we don’t see anyone without an appointment. Then we won’t have to sit around here and waste our time.”

Henry made a face. “You can’t make up a new policy just like that. We have to vote on it—and I vote no. Charlie, what do you say?”

You would think that after weeks of working together, Henry and Scarlett would have at least learned how to tolerate each other. It was almost as if they enjoyed confrontation. Most people go out of their way to avoid fighting, but not these two. They seemed to embrace it.

“So what’s your vote?” Henry said. “Vote no if you want to continue to offer a necessary service to your fellow man . . . or yes if you’re self-centered, self-absorbed, or self-indulgent.” He smiled. He was proud of his command of the language. It didn’t hurt that our list of vocab words at school today all began with the word self.

I folded my hands and set them down on the card table. “Why don’t we just call it quits for today,” I said. “We don’t need to vote on any new policies. And besides, my mom’s due back anytime now.”

“Fine with me,” Scarlett said.

I removed my fedora and flipped it across the room in the direction of the hook that I always seemed to miss. I wasn’t even close this time. I unbuttoned my trusty trench coat and hung it up as Henry folded the card table and slid it behind a ladder on the wall.

“Bye, guys,” Scarlett said. “See you tomorrow.” She swung open the garage door and stopped in her tracks.

Standing in the doorway, completely out of breath, was Danny Reardon, one of the basketball jocks from school. He squeezed by Scarlett.

“I’m glad I found you, Charlie,” he said. “You’re still open for business, I hope.”

“We were just closing up shop for the day,” Scarlett said.

Danny was having a hard time catching his breath. “Listen, guys, this is an emergency. I need help . . . right now.”

Henry reached for the cash jar on one of the shelves and shook it for Danny’s benefit.

“There’s an additional fee for a rush job,” he said.

Danny threw up his hands. “Whatever, I’ll pay it. We just gotta hurry.”

“Okay,” I said. “Let’s get to work.” While Henry and Scarlett opened up lawn chairs, I retrieved the card table and set it up. As I slid on my trench coat and fedora, I felt my heart racing. This is what I lived for—a chance to tackle a real caper—and one with urgency to boot. Danny had come to the right place. We wouldn’t rest until the client was completely satisfied. It was the only way the Charlie Collier, Snoop for Hire Agency did business.

“Okay, Danny,” I said, “what seems to be the problem?”

Danny stood and began pacing. “It’s Rita. She’s going crazy. I don’t know what to do.”

“Who’s Rita?” Henry asked.

“She’s my dog,” Danny said. “We just got her from a shelter.”

Scarlett folded her arms. “This is about some crazy dog? I’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong place. Shouldn’t you be taking her to a vet?”

Danny shook his head. “No, you don’t get it. A vet can’t help with this problem.” He sat down and tried to compose himself. “Rita loves this one tennis ball. And it fell down this hole in our yard . . . and we can’t get it out. You just gotta figure out a way to get it for me.”

I leaned forward. “How deep is the hole exactly?”

“Ten or fifteen feet.”

“Why don’t you just go buy her another tennis ball?” Scarlett said. “If you can afford to pay us, you can afford a new ball.”

Danny plopped down into a lawn chair and squeezed the handles. “I’ve tried that already. It won’t work. She only likes this one tennis ball.”

“This doesn’t sound like a real emergency,” Henry said.

“Oh, no?” Danny said. He was getting upset. “Just how exactly would you define an emergency, then? Try this—Rita stayed outside all night. She refused to come in the house. She just stands over the hole and stares down into it. She hasn’t eaten anything in twenty-four hours. Is that good enough for you?”

Before Henry could respond, I held up my hand. “Tell me, Danny, how wide is this hole exactly? And can you slide a ladder down into it?”

“No way. It’s only about five inches in diameter,” he said.

Henry got up and leaned against the wall. “What kind of hole is this anyway?”

“There was this old water pipe in there. Some workmen from the city came by yesterday and removed it.”

“And they didn’t fill it back up?” I said.

“They’re gonna do that tomorrow,” Danny said. “So we gotta get Rita’s ball outa there before they come back.”

I reached for a small pad of paper on a shelf behind me and began sketching images of the hole. I tried to think of what might be long enough to fit down there, as well as something that could grab the ball. The more I drew, the more frustrated I became.

“Have you tried using a long pole with some double-faced tape on the end?” Scarlett said.

“It won’t work,” Danny said. “The hole goes straight down for about six or seven feet, but then it turns to the right . . . maybe thirty degrees or so. There’s no way to get something down there. I don’t know what I’m gonna do.”

“Why don’t you just trade this dog in for a less crazy one?” Henry said with a grin.

Danny didn’t seem to appreciate Henry’s attempt at humor.

I sat back in my chair. There just had to be a way—an easy way—to get that ball. I tried to recall any Sam Solomon episodes that might help us find a solution, but I kept coming up dry. Then just when I was about to surrender, I had it. Of course, Episode #41—The Well-Disposed-Of Caper. In this particular story, Sam was hot on the trail of a country doctor who had improperly prescribed a drug that had left his patient clinging to life. To avoid getting caught, the doctor decided to discard the empty pill bottle at the bottom of a dried-up old well. The bottle might have remained there forever had not a torrential downpour occurred that raised not only suspicion, but the evidence as well.

I slid my chair up to the table. “Danny, you said this hole is in your backyard, right?”

He nodded.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2014

    Sandpelt's History

    Ch 9
    Sandpaw launched herself out of the bushes where she was waiting with the patrol. She saw that Sparrowclaw, Crowclaw, and Brambleshade were taking care of the grown fox, so she went to one of the cubs.
    The fox cubs were bigger than she imagined. Smaller than the grown one, but just as vicious.
    Sandpaw got back on her haunches and lashed out with both forepaws. She got back on to all fours and gave the fox a nasty blow that knocked him over.
    Quickly she checked on the rest of the patrol. They seemed fine, so she kept battling the fox cub.
    Before the fox could get up, Sandpaw raked her claws down its belly. The fox howled in outrage.
    Then the fox got up and lunged at her. Sandpaw shrieked. The fox's muzzle was a mouse-length from her own.
    The fox scratched her hard on her shoulder. Sandpaw yowled in pain.
    Suddenly the fox was knocked off of her.
    Sandpaw looked over to where they were fighting the grown fox. It was gone.
    "That's right, go away and never come back!" Yowled Brambleshade as she saw the grown fox flee.
    Soon both cubs ran after the mother.
    "I hope those foxes get off our territory," Crowclaw mewed.
    "Yes," Sparrowclaw agreed. "Foxes are nasty brutes."
    The patrol limped back to camp.
    Sandpaw's shoulder was stinging a lot. She winced. "Ow!"
    Brambleshade turned to her. "Pain to much for you to handle?"
    Sandpaw just limped as quickly as she could back to camp, Darkpaw and Yellowpaw by her side.

    After Sandpaw had seen Hazelfur, she went to the fresh- kill pile and chose a plump vole.
    She went over to a tree stump and devoured her meal in quick, rapid bites.
    Sparrowclaw came over to her. "Are you feeling better?" He asked.
    Sandpaw nodded. The pain had gone away completley.
    "Then Stormstar would like you to come to the Gathering tonight."
    Sandpaw gasped. The Gathering! "Why didn't we have one before?
    "Heatherstar and Boulderstar were ill, along with Heatherstar's deputy," Sparrowclaw told her.
    Sandpaw frowned. She didn't know that.
    "Well, you'd better rest now. You will get back home very late."
    Sandpaw obeyed and went to her nest. She drifted off to sleep almost immediatley.

    Sandpaw dreamed that the foxes were back. She curled her lip back in the beginnings of a snarl. Her fur bristled. Her Clanmates lay around her, wounded.
    I must stay strong, for the sake of my Clan! She thought.
    Suddenly a small voice called out.
    "Sandpaw! Sandpaw!"
    Sandpaw looked around. It didn't seem like anyone was speaking to her, yet she heard a voice.
    "Sandpaw!" The voice called, more firmly this time.
    Sandpaw opened her eyes and saw Sparrowclaw. "Sandpaw! Hurry up! The patrol is leaving for the Gathering!"
    Sandpaw was awake in a second. She rushed out to the patrol that was about to leave.
    My first Gathering as an apprentice, Sandpaw thought. I can't wait!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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