Most people know Eoin Colfer as the author of “Artemis Fowl,” a well-loved series of children’s fantasy novels following the adventures of boy genius Artemis as he tangles with fairies, dwarves and magic. I love the Artemis Fowl series, but it’s one of Colfer’s other books that has stuck with me all these years later — a little known British mystery novel about a nerdy kid who teams up with the school bully to solve mysteries called “Half-Moon Investigations.”
“Half-Moon Investigations” is the first book I remember finishing in one sitting. I have a distinct memory of purchasing the hardback of around 300 pages from the Borders that used to sit right next to the Best Buy on Lohr Road, cracking open the binding as I sat in bed that night, and slowly turning off the lamp well past midnight, having consumed the entire thing in an evening. Over the course of a lifetime an individual will read many great books, but only with a few will they become so engrossed in that all other distractions and obligations fade away, with only the turning of the page to mark the passage of time. Since I read “Half-Moon” there have been a few other books that captured me as completely as that one did, but as the saying goes, you never forget your first time.
“Half-Moon” is one of those mystery novels that keeps you feeling like you’re just one step away from cracking the case, only to introduce a new twist that upends everything you thought you knew. The early foreshadowing in this book still impresses me, with an off hand mention of a logic puzzle eventually becoming central to solving the central mystery. Colorful characters weave in and out of the narrative, including a group of popular girls conspiring to get troublemakers kicked out the school, a deranged father obsessed with getting his children first place in the local talent show and a family whose claim to fame is their Elvis Presley impressions. Any and all of these characters appear to be involved in the central mystery, leaving the reader breathlessly anticipating the resolution until the very end.
Like the Cartoon Network series “Codename: Kids Next Door,” part of the appeal of “Half-Moon Investigations” is that it portrays being a kid as cool. The main character is Fletcher Moon, who spends his evenings solving mysteries, and the world building that surrounds the junior high school he goes to is truly impressive for a book that’s half the length of your average “Harry Potter.” The story and situations are outlandish without being ridiculous. It’s the kind of story that makes a young kid want to go out and explore the world around them to discover the craziness that is surely happening just around the corner. Every time I re-read “Half-Moon,” I come out of it wanting to write my own mysteries or maybe just go solve one.
I’ve long believed that books that tell readers they can create their own adventures in the world around them are the most powerful kinds of narratives that kids can hear and for my money “Half-Moon Investigations” is one of those stories. Colfer may be best known for his saga of fantasy heist novels, but for me it will always be his one-off adventure about a British kid trying to clear his friend’s name that I keep coming back to again and again.