Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The Amazing Adventures of Aaron Broom

The Amazing Adventures of Aaron Broom by A. E. Hotchner
Penguin Random House: 7/10/18
eBook review copy; 240 pages
ISBN-13: 9780385543583

The Amazing Adventures of Aaron Broom by A. E. Hotchner is a charming depression era story set in St. Louis featuring a young protagonist. It is very highly recommended

Twelve-year-old Aarom Broom (almost thirteen) is guarding his father's car from the repleviners, two guys from the finance company who would repossess the car for non-payment if they see it. His father, Fred, has an appointment at a jewelry store to show them his samples of Bulova watches - and hopefully sell them some. When his father is buzzed into the jewlery store, pulling his large sample case behind him, Aaron sees a fat man follow quickly follow his father into the store. Then he hears shots, a window shatters, and the fat man runs out of the store, tucking a gun into his waistband. The police show up and Aaron's father is soon being handcuffed and detained by the police.

Eavesdropping on the officers, Aaron learns that his father is considered a material witness and possible accomplice. He will be held without bail. Since his mother is currently at a tuberculosis sanitarium, Aaron is on his own. He quickly surmises that he needs to do some "detectifying" and find out the identity of the real robber. First he will find a way to get his father's car moved and hid in a safe place, then he is going to start looking into the jewelry store employees. Aaron wrangles together a group of friends to help him, including the building manager, a newspaper boy, an ex-neighbor girl, and a kind lawyer, all while hiding from the juvenile welfare officer, trying to find his next meal, and a safe place to sleep.

The Amazing Adventures of Aaron Broom is an old-fashioned tale about a self-reliant, determined young man whose clever sleuthing helps him find the answers he needs to free his father. There is a real sense of community and helpfulness that we don't generally see today portrayed in the novel. Are the answers a bit too convenient for Aaron to find? Sure, but Aaron is an appealing, optimistic, and undaunted narrator. Hotchner provides plenty of period details viewed in the matter-of-fact way a twelve-year-old would view them.  This is a delightful, fast-paced, old-fashioned detective story that was a sheer delight to read.

(Apparently some of this story was also covered in Hotchner's autobiographical novel, King of the Hill, 1972, which I now have on my wish list.)

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.

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