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The Boy Detective Fails


Following the best seller Hairstyles of the Damned (more than 100,000 copies sold) with a spectacular coming-of-age-30 tale, Joe Meno proves once again why he’s the hottest indie author in America. Also check out Office Girl, Demons in the Spring, How the Hula Girl Sings, and Tender as Hellfire.

$16.95 $12.71

Available as an e-book for:

What people are saying…

“This is postmodern fiction with a head and a heart, addressing such depressing issues as suicide, death, loneliness, failure, anomie, and guilt with compassion, humor, and even whimsy. Meno’s best work yet; highly recommended.”
Library Journal (starred review)

“Comedic, imaginative, empathic, atmospheric, archetypal, and surpassingly sweet, Meno’s finely calibrated fantasy investigates the precincts of grief, our longing to combat chaos with reason, and the menace and magic concealed within everyday life.”
Booklist (starred review)

“Mood is everything here, and Meno tunes it like a master . . . a full-tilt collision of wish-fulfillment and unrequited desires that’s thrilling, yet almost unbearably sad.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“A delicate blend of whimsy and edginess. Meno packs his novel with delightful subtext.”
Entertainment Weekly

“A radiantly creative masterpiece . . . Meno’s imaginative genius spins heartache into hope within this fanciful growing-up tale that glows like no other.”

“The search for truth, love, and redemption is surprising and absorbing. Swaddled in melancholy and gentle humor, it builds in power as the clues pile up.”
Publishers Weekly

“An easy to read sometimes dark tale with a perfect ending. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give it a 4.8.”
Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine

“At the bottom of this Pandora’s box of mirthful absurdity, there’s heartbreak and longing, eerie beauty and hope.”
Philadelphia Weekly

“Verbally delectable.”
Chicago Tribune

“Marinated in mood, richly crafted and devoid of irony, Meno’s newest novel is imbued with both the hopeful and the romantic.”
Time Out Chicago

“Moving, elegant prose.”
Washington Post Express

“Surreal, mysterious, and dreamlike.”
NewCity Chicago

“You know that friend of yours who keeps trying to get you to read his half written novel about his quarter-life crisis? Do yourself a favor and read Joe Meno’s version of turning thirty instead.”
The L Magazine

“It’s Encyclopedia Brown without the milk and cookies.”
Chicago Sun-Times

The Boy Detective Fails will break your heart, and then pick up the pieces and put you back together again.”
T Cooper, author of Lipshitz Six, or Two Angry Blondes


Read “Disappears,” Joe Meno’s contribution to Akashic’s Mondays Are Murder series.

Joe Meno answered 16 questions for Akashic’s Literary Lions feature. Read his answers here.

The Boy Detective Fails is part of our Punk Planet Books imprint, which originates from Punk Planet magazine.

In the twilight of a mysterious childhood full of wonder, Billy Argo, boy detective, is brokenhearted to find that his younger sister and crime-solving partner, Caroline, has committed suicide. Ten years later, Billy, age thirty, returns from an extended stay at St. Vitus’ Hospital for the Mentally Ill to discover the world full of unimaginable strangeness: office buildings vanish without reason, small animals turn up without their heads, and cruel villains ride city buses to complete their evil schemes.

Lost within this unwelcoming place, Billy finds the companionship of two lonely, extraordinary children, Effie and Gus Mumford—one a science fair genius, the other a charming, silent bully. With a nearly forgotten bravery, Billy treads from the unendurable boredom of a telemarketing job, stumbles into the awkward beauty of a desperate pickpocket named Penny Maple, and confronts the nearly impossible solution to the mystery of his sister’s death. Along a path laden with hidden clues and codes that dare the reader to help Billy decipher the mysteries he encounters, the boy detective may learn the greatest secret of all: the necessity of the unknown.



Book Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Published: 9/1/06
  • IBSN: 9781933354101
  • e-IBSN: 9781936070497


JOE MENO is a fiction writer and journalist who lives in Chicago. Winner of the Nelson Algren Literary Award, a Pushcart Prize, and a finalist for the Story Prize, Meno is the best-selling author of several novels and short story collections including Marvel and a Wonder, The Great Perhaps, The Boy Detective Fails, and Hairstyles of the Damned. He is a professor in the English and Creative Writing Department at Columbia College Chicago. Book of Extraordinary Tragedies is his latest work.

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