The 323 Detective Agency – open for funny business

Published On September 2, 2009 | By Richard Bruton | Comics, Comics For Children, Reviews

The 323 Detective Agency – The Disappearance Of Dave Warthog

by Fiona Robinson

Amulet Books / Abrams

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The simplest way to review this would be to tell you that on the day we got it in the post, Molly sat down with it and read the whole thing, cover to cover, complaining every time  we dragged her away from it to go out, have food or do anything. I believe that’s the very definition of un-putdownable.

And when she finally did let go of it and I got to read it I can see why she likes it so much. It’s a fun, breezy simple buddy story of animals banding together and having adventures. The artwork’s lovely; brightly coloured, simply done in marker pen, big and bold, warm and cheerful stuff. And the story is just as cheery – it’s a really nice children’s comic, with enough sillyness and funny stuff going on between the detective work to entertain all. It’s designed to be read fast – just like Molly did, with very short chapters, a limited cast and a simple but fun story.

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(The 323 agency finds it’s name onboard the 3:23 to Whiska City – but what’s that – folks are going missing – sounds like a case!)

The 323 Detective Agency is so called because that’s where the members of the agency first met each other – on the 3:23pm express to Whiska City. Jenny the wise donkey has a dream of setting up a detective agency and recruits the other travellers on the train to come work with her in that oh so easy way that’s so important for getting the story moving along. The rest of the agency is made up of: Roger the gourmet dung beetle who wants to do more than eat dung all day, Priscilla the penguin who wants to be an actress, Slingshot the hyperactive sloth who just wants the sorts of adventures he’s never going to find with his oh so boring family and Bluebell, the shy but brave rat. An eclectic bunch, but all given great characters by Robinson. Within a few pages they’re all good friends and all set off to Whiska City to start in the investigating business.

As you might expect, they’re not hanging around too long before their first case has them investigating a rash of disappearances from Whiska City that all seem to lead back to the same pampered poodle parlour. Along the way, we get to see Jenny putting her team through intensive (and funny) training, watch each member of the agency find their skills coming in useful in fun and interesting ways and generally have a great time joining in with their adventures.

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(The 323 Agency – complimentary patries always served. Just the sort of little artistic touch you’ll find throughout the book. Very nicely done.)

Like Molly said when I asked her about the book:

“I really liked The 323 Detective Agency, all the characters have really great names and are very funny. (Slingshot Sloth’s my favourite – he’s always saying the wrong things!) An I loved the really funny comedy bike they all had to get on – and the way that only Jenny did any of the riding  and when they had to choose their beds because they all picked really silly beds. I thought the art was fantastic and I really enjoyed it and hope lots of other children will love it as much as I did. Please, Fiona Robinson, can you do some more?”

And I really don’t think you need any higher praise than that.

Fiona Robinson is the author-illustrator of The Useful Moose: A Truthful, Moose-full Tale. As far as I know this is her first graphic novel. Molly is really, really hoping she’ll do more – especially if it’s more adventures of the 323 Detective Agency. And I wouldn’t be averse to more either.

Richard Bruton.

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About The Author

Richard Bruton

– Started in comics retail aged 16 at Nostalgia & Comics, Birmingham. Now located in Yorkshire, he’s written for the Forbidden Planet International Blog since 2007. Specialising in UK Comics and All-Ages comics, Richard’s day job in a primary school allowed him to build the best children’s graphic novel library in the country.

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