Agaton Sax and the Diamond Thieves, by Nils-Olof Franzen

As a lifelong fan of detective stories written for children, from Nate the Great to Bad Machinery, I was excited to hear about the recent reprints of Nils-Olof Franzen's Agaton Sax novels, a beloved but long out-of-print Swedish pastiche of the Sherlock Holmes stories. I had heard of these books, but only found one vintage edition—Agaton Sax and the Diamond Thieves—that was both in decent shape and affordable, so the news of paperback reprints was very welcome*.

The Agaton Sax stories were originally written for the 7 to 10-year-old set, but the old-fashioned language might make them a better read-aloud option. The protagonist of the series is the world's greatest detective, Agaton Sax. Agaton combines the crime-solving ability of Hercule Poirot with the derring-do of James Bond, but remains oblivious to the fact that his mild-mannered aunt might well be the actual family mastermind. In Agaton Sax and the Diamond Thieves, Agaton must take down a dastardly criminal who uses newspaper comics to communicate with his associates—and just might be 113 years old.

Agaton Sax and the Diamond Thieves was written in 1965, and it shows its age via a lack of diverse characters, dated language, and a lot of pipe-smoking. However, it didn't feature anything I found overtly offensive, which is actually pretty impressive for a nearly 60 year old novel. I suspect the publisher behind the reprints might have been wiser to hold onto the rights until the next kid-focused detective/spy movie or TV series really takes off—we tried reading this to our adventure-loving five-year-old, and while he seemed to enjoy himself, I have no idea if he caught any of the classic tropes littered throughout the story. Still, we all have to learn these cultural references somewhere, and encountering them via a classic children's book series is considerably classier than where I picked them up... which was undoubtedly via Inspector Gadget.

*Sadly, these new editions don't feature the original English translations' distinctive Quentin Blake illustrations.
Posted by: Julianka


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