Thursday, June 20, 2013

Moses, Me, and Murder: A Barkerville Mystery by Ann Walsh | Book Review

TITLE: Moses, Me, and Murder: A Barkerville Mystery
AUTHOR: Ann Walsh
PUBLISHER/YEAR: Dundurn / June 18, 2013
SOURCE: For Review from Publisher via Netgalley

Goodreads / Author's Website

I have issues reviewing books meant for children and teens. It's not that I don't think they have any merit, I distinctly remember loving them as a kid, it's just that I no longer connect to them on an emotional level and I'm definitely an emotional reader.  Moses, Me, and Murder isn't a terrible book; it's actually pretty good, I just couldn't connect to it as a reader unfortunately, but I can totally see how this would be a useful teaching tool in elementary schools. I think I'm just the wrong demographic.

It's 1866 right in the middle of British Columbia's gold rush. Ted is a young boy who's moved up to the Cariboo with his family and spends his days with Moses, Barkerville's resident barber. One day when Ted's sitting in the barber shop, James Barry walks into the shop and Moses recognizes a gold nugget pin that belonged to his friend Charles Blessing, a man he hasn't seen in months. Ted and Moses both realize that Barry is a dangerous man and they need to balance their own safety with finding out the truth about what happened to Blessing. This is a book based on true events that occurred in the Cariboo during this time period.

I remember studying the gold rush during elementary school and being super into it. I actually remember these specific events and the James Barry trial. It's actually why I requested this title to begin with. I was kind of looking forward to a middle grade reminder of my own elementary school days, but you know, kind of fictionalized. It's how I was introduced to what would eventually become my major after all. But to be honest  Moses, Me, and Murder fell kind of flat for me. It read like a history lesson. The best middle grade books still have some sort of connection for me. I either relate to a character's struggles or situations or I just think it's super cute or funny or something I would have loved when I was growing up. This one felt more like a history lesson with Ted thrown in to hook the younger audience; it felt like something I would read in school.

I felt absolutely no connection to Ted. I didn't have a feel of who he was outside of this murder mystery. He's afraid of Barry, he has thoughts on the justice system and he's close to Moses, but what drives him? Maybe I'm asking too much of a book, but I kept thinking of Becky Citra's After the Fire and how I really felt something for the main character even though she was so much younger than I am. I just didn't feel anything for any of the characters. It's a major drawback for me when reading.

I will say that the mystery portion of the book would probably have hooked me had I been a younger reader. As it was, it wasn't enough to salvage the book for me, but I can totally see a twelve year old loving the murder mystery. It would be pretty exciting, especially if the child recognizes some of the characters from previous reading (such as Judge Begbie). It's the kind of book that would make an excellent companion piece for a unit on the Cariboo gold rush because it has some excitement on top of what could be a dry history lesson. It also poses some interesting, if heavy handed, questions by the end. I don't think a student would complain about having to read this one, but it wouldn't be the book I recommended if you wanted a student to just get into reading. If that makes any sense at all.

Overall, Moses, Me, and Murder just didn't do it for me. It didn't hook me as an older reader and I don't think that there was enough to hook a younger reader, although it would probably hit closer to home for them. That's not to say this book has no merits and like I said, it would make an excellent educational tool. That's just not what I'm looking for when I pick up a book right now.

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