Being on facebook has at least one very good advantage. My friend from high school Becky H. Parrish is a recently retired art professor at the University of Texas at El Paso; she is a fantastic artist, an outspoken Democrat, and a bibliophile. When she posts on facebook about books she has read, I usually find them at Lemuria and read them, too. A few weeks ago, she posted that she was enjoying a day outside, under an umbrella, reading a great book that made her laugh and cry; and what’s more… it is fantastic. It’s Mona Simpson’s new creation Casebook.

Jacket (17)

A teenage boy named Miles and his friend Hector jerryrig a listening device in the basement that somehow (don’t ask me how) picks up the conversations on the upstairs phone. In the meantime, his parent’s marriage is quietly falling apart, a fact that wouldn’t be apparent if it weren’t for that piece of detective equipment in the basement. Miles has two sisters, younger twins he affectionately calls the Boops. As a matter of fact, there’s a lot of affection in this book even though marriages are dissolving and people are moving to new neighborhoods to live on divided goods once shared by the intact families.

The two self-proclaimed detective friends Miles and Hector start to notice new phone calls and grow suspicious enough to engage the services of a private detective who lives far enough away for them to jump on their bikes and cycle over. Of course, there’s the matter of money and how to pay when they are just in middle school. How they do this is part of the fun and pathos of the gentle story which, like the art professor from UTEP says, will make you laugh and cry in this well crafted book seen through the eyes of a boy coming of age in California.


Written by Pat