Investigators: Off the Hook / Investigators: Ants in Our P.A.N.T.S

Investigators: Off the Hook
Investigators: Ants in Our P.A.N.T.S

John Patrick Green
Macmillan Children’s Books

More crime busting, pun filled sprees for Investigators Mango and Brash. As Off the Hook opens Mango and Brash are debating the tricky question:should you or should you not let your partner die for the cause of the greater good, or save your partner first and foremost. Little do they know however that Mango is going to have to face what he calls that ‘no-win scenario’ for real in their next mission – a mission in which they are to test the latest camouflage V.E.S.T technology. while tracking down and seizing Crackerdile et al. Crackerdile has enlisted into his evil T.A.I.L.Blazers the combined Hookline and Slinker – now a snake-armed man.

He and his new recruits – the only two of what he hopes will grow into a large criminal team – rob a bank and then head to a Chicken and Waffle restaurant so that he can be turned into a waffle – the largest size possible.

Can our agents possibly work out exactly what is going on, capture the arch villain and most important, both emerge intact from what seems to be their most difficult mission to date?

As always Green’s plot abounds with clever humour and madcappery, contains a layer of intertextuality for adult audiences and a motley cast of lesser characters; plus the book ends with a hook to lead you into the ‘Ants’ story. Don’t miss the detail in these illustrations -it’s terrific. (Colour added in Off the Hook by Aaron Polk.)

Taking up where the previous book left off, it’s been decided by HQ that rather than wait for crimes to occur, as soon as they ‘get wind of an evil-doer’s scheme an Anti-Crime-Unit will go undercover as fellow evil-doers and follow the straightforward P.A.N.T.S procedure. Easy-peasy – errr … Maybe not quite so with one of our star team temporarily out of action. Meanwhile those all-purpose V.E.S.T.s have been deemed not really ready for purpose and so it’s back to the assignment-specific kind for this mission.

We soon find Cilantro wrestling with herself: should she turn evil or not? But then she notices someone seemingly up to no good in the old opera house and realises it’s a heroine, not a villain she wants to be. Cilantro reports her findings to our Investigators and it’s a case of putting those new P.A.N.T.S. procedures into action forthwith.

With a decided lack of information regarding Crackerdile, and Brash’s mind to be sorted out, the do-gooding duo have an awful lot of work to do if they’re to prevent the city being taken over by giant ants. Then there’s the question of a certain agent facing up to his fears 

– a Miss Tick or maybe Mrs Tick, but certainly not a mystical thing.Time perhaps to allow Cilantro out in the field and for the Aunty Crime Unit to step forth and put their knitting skills and their ‘purls of wisdom’ to work.

With the usual super-abundance of groan-worthy puns and the reappearance of some characters from previous books, this is yet another high octane (and high-tech) drama, this time with added colour by Wes Dzioba. Established fans will gobble it up but if you’ve not read any of this series, you are missing out on a great deal of fun.