Tales of the kids' lib detectives; The Case of the Crooked Kids and The Case of the Blackmail Boys, by Terrance Dicks. New York: Elsevier/Nelson Books. $7.95 each.

By , Randy Shipp is a Monitor staff writer.

An author of more than 40 children's books and scriptwriter of the science fiction TV series "Dr. Who," Terrance Dicks knows how to appeal to youngsters. The latest books in his "Baker Street Irregulars" series (about four youthful London detectives with a love of Sherlock Holmes) are lively and entertaining.

In one, the Irregulars (Dan "the tall, thin, sharp-faced kid," Jeff, "the stocky fair haird boy," Liz, "the skinny fair haired girl," and Mickey, "the little kid with the bristly hair and ears like jug handles,") track down a gang of equally youthful thieves trained by a Fagin-like character. In the other, they risk their necks to help a friend whose family is being blackmailed by a sinister crook nicknamed "The Planner." Adventures abound, but the Irregulars always manage, through great ingenuity, to escape from danger. Naturally, in both stories, the police, while giving out surprising amounts of information, are usually at least one step behind the heroes and heroine.

"The underlying theme of the books might be called kids' lib," says Mr. Dicks on the book jacket, adding, "Children are brighter and smarter than anyone gives them credit for."

Recommended: Default

Although the books might be considered "boys' books" (the main character and most of the Irregulars being boys), the female characters also come off well. Liz is fully as adventurous and intelligent as her male cohorts. Her mother, a journalist, is equally strong.

The books are recommended for readers aged 9 and up, but readers much older than 9 may have little difficulty in solving the mysteries before the end of the books. While not great literature, or great mysteries, they are engagingly written and the sort of books that might encourage a young reader to go on to meatier stuff.

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