First things first: Here’s a nice illustration by R.W. Alley from the first book in the Jigsaw Jones mystery series, The Case of Hermie the Missing Hamster.
I wrote the first book in 1997 which — hold on, let me do the math — feels like a hundred years ago, or yesterday, depending on my mood. Time has that way of expanding or compressing. Now there are almost forty books in that series. In early November, 2008, I handed in the manuscript for The Case of the Secret Skeleton, which will be offered on Scholastic Book Clubs in Fall of ’09, along with some kind of nifty gadget.
For the best way to access more info about Jigsaw Jones — including lots of insider info — I encourage you to click on “Jigsaw Jones” under CATEGORIES in the right-hand column of the main page. It will link you up to all sorts of choice tidbits. Otherwise, I intend to slowly build up this page with informal book-by-book descriptions.
The first book in the series, so of course it holds a special place for me. When I started, Jigsaw’s working name was “Otis” and there was no sign of his partner, Mila Yeh. She didn’t appear until the second draft. In this story, Wingnut O’Brien’s hamster is missing — and the #1 suspect is a pet boa constrictor! You don’t need to read this series in order, but Hermie is a great place to start.
To write this book, I had to learn about numismatism. In other words, coin collecting. I also had to research Diwali, an Indian holiday. In this story, Lucy Hiller is in trouble. She gave her father’s rare coin — a 1937D Indian-headed nickel — to Bigs Maloney. He happened to be the biggest, roughest, toughest kid in the second grade. But the coin is missing and Jigsaw and Mila have to track it down. Or else they’ll be in trouble. Bigs trouble.
In this story, someone sent Jigsaw a secret Valentine — yeesh! This case depends on an old mystery writer’s trick: gender assumption. As Jigsaw says early in the case, “You know what the worst part is. This girl is ruining a perfectly good holiday. I mean, I like Valentine’s Day. You get to eat cupcakes. Why does she have to drag love into it?” There’s also a little bit of info about Abraham Lincoln thrown into the book, just because!
“Ghosts?” I repeated. “Like Casper the Friendly?” Ralphie Jordan shook his head. “No, the unfriendly kind.” And now the only way to crack the case is for Jigsaw to spend the night in Ralphie’s haunted house. There’s a lot of creepy fun in this one, with squishy eyeballs and flying popcorn. I always liked the way this book begins, establishing character: Ralphie Jordan was the most popular kid in room 201. Everybody liked Ralphie. And Ralphie liked everybody right back. He had dark eyes, dark skin, dark hair — and he was as thin as a flagpole. Best of all, Ralphie Jordan was a world-champion smiler. Nobody had a bigger smile or used it more often. Only today, Ralphie wasn’t smiling.
Things you should know about this book: 1) It begins with some lines lifted from a Beatles song, “A Day In the Life,” as a sort of tribute to some musical heroes; 2) Ms. Gleason’s dog, as described on p. 12, is really my old dog, the dear departed Seamus; 3) as a kid, I totally used to dress up and wrestle like Bigs Maloney; 4) I have a complete set of 1969 Topps baseball cards — a cherished possession; 5) I dedicated this book to author Raymond Chandler, whose great books helped inspire this series; 6) I wrote the first draft of this book in November, 1998
I love how this book turned out, but it was sooo hard for me to write. At the time, I was still idealistic about how books were made, and I struggled against the necessity of having a cover before the manuscript was written. The whole mummy concept was sort of thrown at me, and it took a long time for me to figure out how a mummy could possibly fit into the story. In retrospect, I think writing this book made me grow up a little bit. An aside: When I wrote this book, my local elementary featured an annual Halloween parade, with all the kids circling the building. After 9/11, that event was canceled, never to return. Homeland Security, I guess. The book also includes a favorite song from my childhood: “Nobody likes me/Everybody hates me/Guess I’ll go eat worms./First you peel the skin off/Then you chew the guts up/Ooey-gooey wooorms!”
There’s a lot to talk about with this book. It was partly inspired by my runaway turtle, Green Fingernail. That’s right: Green Fingernail, wiseguy. There’s an old man in the book, Mr. Signorelli, who becomes not only a key witness, but a friend to Jigsaw. Like my own mother and father, he smoked. My editor, Helen Perelman, wanted me to take that out. But I insisted. Just because he smoked, it didn’t make him a bad person. Toward the end of the book, Jigsaw realizes that the old man will be alone on Thanksgiving. I like that moment immediately after Jigsaw asks him about his Thanksgiving Day plans: He scratched the end of his nose and looked out across the lake. I followed his gaze. But there was nothing there. Just water and emptiness. To learn more “stories behind this story,” click here.
One of the things I try to do in each book, mostly just for myself, is to make a reference to a real book. It’s just a subtle way of connecting Jigsaw’s fictional world with the reader’s everyday world. I was more ambitious here, with Ms. Gleason reading Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner in the classroom. She even introduces the idea of The Five “W” Questions essential to reading and writing: who, what, where, when, why. As Jigsaw realizes: “Reading was like detective work. Figure out the W questions . . . and you’ll catch the crook.” Note: By way of tribute, I lifted, and transformed, the setup of this story from Raymond Chandler’s great book, Farewell, My Lovely. The character of second-grader Bigs Maloney is partly inspired by the hulking ex-con, Moose Malloy. To learn more “stories behind this story,” click here.
I hoped the word “stinky” would help rocket this book to the bestseller list, but no such luck. There’s not as much Science Fair material in this story as I had initially hoped. But I was able to introduce a new character, the redoubtable Sally-Ann Simms. Don’t be fooled by the lace socks and little red plastic pocketbook. Sally-Ann is a walking hurricane in lavender and pink. Unfortunately, Bobby Solofsky — Jigsaw’s arch nemesis — fools Sally-Ann (who is only four) with a phony magic trick and gets away with her weekly allowance. When Sally-Ann hires Jigsaw to make things right, he uses the Scientific Method to figure out the solution.
A surprise author is coming to Ms. Gleason’s class. It’s a real mystery. Ms. Gleason won’t say the name of the writer. Some kids think it might be a ghostwriter — the secret author of the famous Creep Show series! The class hires Jigsaw and Mila to solve the case. Soon they are hot on the trail of the mystery author. To learn more “stories behind this story,” click here.
Jigsaw is excited about a camping trip with his friends. No school. No detective work. But a full moon and a campfire story about a lake creature get Jigsaw back to business. Danika is sure a Marshmallow Monster is haunting the lake. Jigsaw and Mila scope out the area and wait to find out the real story of the Marshmallow Monster! To learn more “stories behind this story,” click here.
Athena Lorenzo has been slimed! And she doesn’t think it’s funny. Someone in Ms. Gleason’s class is playing practical jokes. It’s up to Jigsaw and Mila to catch the clown. This could be their stickiest case yet! To learn more “stories behind this story,” click here. And for news about the touring musical, check this out.
Someone is stealing brownies from Mike and Mary’s sandwich shop. Jigsaw is piecing together the clues — one crumb at a time. But no one is gong to snatch a brownie with a detective watching. Time for Jigsaw to go undercover and catch the brownie bandit.
Someone stole Ralphie Jordan’s rusty old bicycle. Jigsaw and Mila hit the trail to track down the thief. But one piece of the puzzle doesn’t fit. Who would take a hand-me-down bike? Solving this case is an uphill ride for ace detectives Jigsaw and Mila. To learn more “stories behind this story,” click here.
Jigsaw Jones #15: The Case of the Haunted Scarecrow
When Jigsaw takes a new case, he becomes the key witness. But he can’t believe his eyes. Scarecrows don’t walk, do they? It’s a case of private eye turned eyewitness. And it’s got Jigsaw and Mila scared silly. To learn more “stories behind this story,” click here.
Time out! The girls take on the boys in the biggest football game ever. But when one boy’s sneakers disappear, the players stop the clock. And Jigsaw and Mila take the field. It’s a tough case to tackle, but this detective team plays to win. To learn more “stories behind this story,” click here.
Now you see it, now you don’t! Danika is doing a magic act at Bigs’s birthday party. For her biggest trick, she makes Bigs’s favorite toy disappear. POOF — it’s gone! But where did it go? Even Danika doesn’t know. Time for Jigsaw and Mila to use their own tricks to fix this mixed-up magic.
Grrrrrrrrr. Something in the woods growls and snaps bird feeders in half. It’s bad news! Now kids are afraid to play outside. Is a black bear loose in Jigsaw’s town? The clues may tell a different story. Jigsaw and Mila will get to the bottom of this grizzly case. For more background info, click here.
Creepy attics, cobwebs, creaky floors . . . top detective Jigsaw Jones has seen it all. So when the new boy in town finds an old key hidden in his house, Jigsaw is ready to solve the mystery. But the clues are stacked against him. Will the key lead Jigsaw and Mila to their creepiest case yet?
Jigsaw is in big-time trouble. For a dollar a day, Jigsaw and Mila make problems go away. But now Jigsaw has some trouble of his own. He lost his grandfather’s watch! Can Jigsaw and Mila find the watch before time runs out?
Big Maloney is acting fishy. He doesn’t want to stomp through puddles or make mud pies. Is Bigs up to no good? Or does he have the rainy day blues? Jigsaw Jones, super-spy, is on the case!
Jigsaw Jones #22: The Case of the Best Pet Ever
Jigsaw Jones #23: The Case of the Perfect Prank
Jigsaw Jones #24: The Case of the Glow-in-the-Dark Ghost
Jigsaw Jones #25: The Case of the Vanishing Painting
Jigsaw Jones #26: The Case of the Double Trouble Detectives
RRRRRRib-bit! Jigsaw and his friend Stringbean are in a frog-jumping contest. The frog with the longest leap wins. It’s great until the champion frog disappears just 24 hours before the contest. Jigsaw is only a hop, skip, and a jump away from catching the frog-napper. To learn more “stories behind this story,” click here.
When someone starts a food fight in the school cafeteria, everyone points a finger at Joey Pignattano, notorious milk-snorter and all-around gross-out. But Jigsaw knows Joey has a good heart. Joey would never throw food he could eat instead! Now Jigsaw has only twenty-four hours to clear Joey’s name before the evidence gets mopped up, Luckily, no case is too big — or too messy — for Jigsaw Jones and his partner Mila Yeh. To learn more “stories behind this story,” click here.
Jigsaw and his family are going on a ski vacation. But when trouble hits the slopes, Jigsaw has to find a missing good luck charm. Can he solve the case without the help of his partner, Mila? Or will Jigsaw wipe out? To learn more “stories behind this story,” click here.
Jigsaw Jones #30: The Case of the Kidnapped Candy
Jigsaw Jones #31: The Case of the Spoiled Rotten Spy
Jigsaw Jones #32: The Case of the Groaning Ghost
SUPER SPECIALS . . . to come!