Author J.R. Underdown is as versatile a creative as you are likely to find. Taking cues from a lifetime of movies, shows, music, stories, and other art forms from an early age, he has put much of that education to use as a songwriter, poet, reviewer, podcaster, and author. Utilizing these diverse influences, Underdown has already released a YA Fantasy Novel, Plethora, a self-published collection of poetry (Seasons So Far), two EPs on NoiseTrade, music reviews on Jesusfreakhideout.com, as well as guest appearances on the podcast, and short fiction published on FrontierTales.com and in Mystery Weekly Magazine.
J.R.'s newest endeavor is The Boyd Bafflers: Vol. 1, and is a collection of twelve short stories that follow two friends, Braxton and Jonah, as they seek out answers to various mysteries at their Bible College. The stories were compiled over years of plying his writing craft and based off of real-life influences and friendships. This served to give character depth without spending too much time on character development due to the brevity of each story. The "bafflers" themselves, range from lighthearted misunderstandings to kidnapping, while the tone never strays too far from the fare of television show Scooby-Doo, or The Hardy Boys novels of yesteryear.
Our two main characters Braxton Fife, the brainy homeschooler prone to superfluous arguments, and fellow freshman Jonah Underhill, who has a nose for mysteries, make for a great pair of friends and detectives. Sharing this love for "bafflers" brings them together and they quickly develop strong chemistry across the chronicles. Underdown's reoccurring supporting characters also serve to add additional flavor and camaraderie without clogging the narrative with too many people to keep up with.
The setting of most of the cases at the Seminary/Bible College was fresh and brought with it some fun inside jokes that this former Bible College student could appreciate, without totally excluding those who didn't share a similar experience. I definitely got a kick out of the name of the valley between the college and the seminary, which I won't spoil here but suffice to say is aptly and cleverly labeled. In fact, the cleverness of names, banter, and the spot-on depiction of former homeschooler Braxton, left this reviewer chuckling quite often and even produced a laugh-out-loud moment or two.
All in all, The Boyd Bafflers is a fun read that you can look forward to coming back to because of the brief length of each one. It's perfect for reading straight through or coming back every couple of days for a new dose of whimsy. I would highly recommend it for fans of precocious mysteries like the aforementioned Hardy Boys, Scooby-Doo, and Sherlock Holmes or just those who enjoy a good mystery with the clever interplay between characters, especially the middle school age group and up. With this being labeled as "Volume One," I certainly hope to hear more from our Boyd College detectives with a potential "Volume Two" very soon.- Review date: 4/3/21, written by Josh Balogh of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Publisher: Independently Published
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