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Joey Fly, Private Eye in Creepy Crawly Crime

Review

Joey Fly, Private Eye in Creepy Crawly Crime

JOEY FLY, PRIVATE EYE is a spoof of private eye movies for children, which is an odd idea when you think about it: How many kids have read Mickey Spillane novels or seen The Maltese Falcon? Do they get the clichés that are being parodied? Do they even know how the dial phone on Joey Fly’s desk works?
 
The kids who read it may not get the references, but they will probably like this book, which delivers both a good mystery and a good laugh.
 
The plot is pretty straightforward. After a bit of business in which Joey hires a clumsy scorpion, Sammy Stingtail, as his assistant, the requisite lovely lady comes into the office and hires Joey to find her missing diamond pencil box. Delilah, a swallowtail butterfly, fingers a ladybug friend, Gloria, for the crime. It’s kind of amazing that it takes 96 pages to figure out that the thief is in fact Delilah herself, since her story is fishy from the get-go (and everyone who has seen a noir movie knows that the beautiful dame with the long legs is nothing but trouble).
 
And that’s the one rap on Joey Fly: The story moves very slowly. We follow the detectives as they visit the scene of the crime and interview all the principals, then finally bring them all together for the big reveal, but the pacing is very slow and starts to seem repetitive after a while.
 
On the plus side, the book has lots of humor, both verbal and slapstick. Sammy’s tail is a running joke, as is Delilah’s dumbness. The voiceover, provided in text boxes, not only keeps the story on track but supplies a steady stream of bug-themed wisecracks: “The facts were starting to line up like centipedes at a shoe sale.” “I was putting the pieces together faster than a silkworm at a quilting bee.” You get the idea.
 
The art is straightforward and easy to read, but the artists have also put enough details in the background to entertain the careful reader. The creators have dreamed up a clever bug world that mixes natural and urban elements, and their bug-people always look natural despite having four arms and a proboscis instead of a nose. Most of the panels are monochrome, but the color scheme switches for different episodes—blue-violet in Joey Fly’s office, dull red when they are questioning a suspect, bright yellow for flashbacks of the party where the box was stolen. This not only provides variety but makes it easier for readers to follow the story. The artist also uses bright red to highlight one key clue, a dropped pencil
 
The mystery in JOEY FLY, PRIVATe eye may be a no-brainer, but private-eye movies are all about the quest. With lively characters, a moody atmosphere, and witty writing, Joey Fly has a lot to offer, even for kids who aren’t fans of Dashiell Hammet.

Reviewed by Brigid Alverson on July 9, 2012

Joey Fly, Private Eye in Creepy Crawly Crime
by Aaron Reynolds