In this first title in the detective fiction series by L. M. Falcone, ten-year-old Max Monroe is intrigued to discover that the carriage house behind his grandpa's home was once the office of the Monroe Detective Agency. Then he learns the agency had belonged to his grandpa's dead brother, Larry. But Max didn't know he had a great-uncle. “Well, he's dead,” says Grandpa Harry, “but his ghost still haunts the detective agency.” It seems Uncle Larry died of a broken heart because he “never solved one measly case.” However, a surprise phone call from a magician named Marty the Magnificent with an offer of a detective job seems like the second chance Larry has been begging for. Except, Larry is a ghost --- he can't work a case in the real world. But Max can! With Larry's help, of course.
The offbeat idea of a boy detective with a ghost as a sidekick provides this story with lots of opportunities for inside jokes and misunderstandings. This is a terrific chapter book series for newly independent readers who are ready for something more challenging than a first reader, with simple sentences, humorous dialogue and very short chapters, designed to make the reading experience less daunting. The limited black-and-white illustrations (around one per chapter) by Kim Smith provide details that enrich the story. The series provides a great introduction to the mystery genre, perfect for honing critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.