Mystery At The Club Sandwich by Doug Cushman.
The Plot: Nick Trunk, detective, investigates a theft. A singer has lost her marbles.
The Good: This is a mystery that is a picture book. I love sophisticated picture books; personally, I enjoy them, but I also love options for those kids who are reluctant readers, or who are in ESL, or have a learning issue, or whatever - I love when they have picture books available that aren't aimed at babies. Also, on a professional level, it's easier to do a read aloud with a picture book to a whole class.
This book plays with language; so, the reader (or listener) needs to know certain things about how language works to get the jokes. For example, Nick introduces himself: "My name is Nick Trunk. I am a detective. People hire me to find things. I do not charge much. I work for peanuts." Why is this funny? Nick Trunk is an elephant.
Nick continues, "One morning, the door to my office opened. In walked a beautiful lady. She looked like trouble."
"My name is Trouble," she said. "Maggie Trouble."
Needless to say, the person who lost their marbles, lost real marbles.
The pictures provide visual clues; so a careful reader, meaning someone who is also looking at the pictures, will easily solve the crime. When I read this to a group of kids ages six to eleven, they quickly figured out the plot. But hello, you name someone Trouble and that's a pretty big flag.
You know what? That's OK. Part of a the pleasure that comes from reading a mystery is the feeling of smartness in figuring it out, either before or at the same time as the people in the book. (That said, a bad mystery is one where it's so obvious it's laughable... this one has plenty of red herrings, false clues, and unfolds at a nice pace.) Plus, this is a great introduction to detective stories.