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Book Reviews

Spotlight on: Crime Files: Body of Evidence by Jeremy Brown
(Four-Minute Forensic Mysteries)

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Crime Files: Body of Evidence by Jeremy Brown Jeremy Brown, Crime Files: Body of Evidence
(Four-Minute Forensic Mysteries)

I have enjoyed mysteries for as long as I can remember. When I was about ten, I couldn't get enough of Donald J. Sobol's Encyclopedia Brown character, a boy detective who solved crimes and puzzles in and around his hometown of Idaville. Each story was only a few pages, and the solutions were at the end of the book.

But solving neighborhood quandaries, like in which shoe box Ziggy Ketchum left his salami sandwich, are not so exciting to today's more sophisticated readers. Television shows like CSI and House, M.D. have added more science and technology to the solving process, bringing the old-fashioned mystery firmly into the 21st century.

Now crime scene investigation has crossed with the short, simple puzzles of yesterday to result in a thoroughly modern rendering: Jeremy Brown's new series for Scholastic, Crime Files: Four-Minute Forensic Mysteries. The first collection, Body of Evidence, contains over fifty different crimes to solve, with the solution at the end of each selection.

The investigation team is comprised of a cadre of interesting characters. CSI Wes Burton is the quirky investigator whose favorite phrase is, "The evidence stands up [in court]; it does not lie." He carries his supplies in the numerous pockets of his fisherman's vest. Burton is accompanied by Mike Trellis, a laboratory technician who spouts unfunny jokes followed by, "Get it?" Also along are Detectives Radley and Gibson, performing the familiar "good cop, bad cop" roles; Ed, a search-and-rescue dog; and Dr. Crown, a pathologist of few words. Not all the characters are in all the stories, which makes for a nice mix of personalities.

The short vignettes (three to five pages) in Body of Evidence are a lot of fun. They have been geared for younger readers, but haven't been "dumbed down." These are intelligent problems solved using modern methods. Brown does not always play fair with the clues, but this will only bother readers who try to solve the mysteries before reading the answer.

Whether they are investigating murder, theft, kidnapping, robbery, burglary, vandalism, or a simple case of misperception (and even though they regularly give each other a hard time), the team strives to work together toward a common goal. Crimes in the real world do not always have such easy solutions, but Jeremy Brown offers a respite from uncertainly with Body of Evidence's thorough explanations and neatly assembled puzzles.

This review originally appeared in somewhat different form in The Gardner News. Copyright 2006.

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