I finally finished The Spaghetti Detectives the other day, and it is definitely one of the others. The title and the cover art make it seem a little bit Encyclopedia Brown-ish–boys who solve neighborhood mysteries involved in something bigger, that sort of thing. In reality, it feels a little like Mary Higgins Clark meets “Rear Window:” child abductions, suspicious neighbors, and life or death consequences. It does have a weirdly light tone for its subject matter, but that’s due to its narrator’s personality. Rico is a lovable “child proddity” who pulls us into his life from the get-go, whereas Oscar, by contrast, is an actual child prodigy who keeps his own counsel. The two become involved in a serial kidnapping case; yes, they had a very brief conversation about pasta at their first meeting, but the noodle involved is incidental to the plot, which is far more serious than pretty much anything about the physical book would lead you to believe. It’s an interesting mystery, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that a serious story told from a frank, often unintentionally amusing point of view is not quite the same thing as an amusing story. Kids should find it both interesting and exciting, mind you, but as a parent? Let’s just say I flinched more than once. It may be a cultural difference, of course–it was originally published in German–but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s darker than the title and cover would have you believe. If you have a mystery lover, it’s worth your time; just remember that it’s about as much of a light children’s story as Hansel and Gretel.