Thursday, May 04, 2023

Minerva Keene's Detective Club

Graf, Keir and Patterson, James.
Minerva Keene's Detective Club
May 1, 2023 by jimmy patterson
E ARC Provided by Edelweiss Plus

**Some spoilers in What I Really Think.**

Minerva and her brother Heck live in the apartment building in Chicago. Their very busy professional parents are off traveling the world, ostensibly for work, but always seem to be in the middle of something fun when the children call. An older cousin, Bizzy, who is in graduate school, is supposed to be nannying for the family, but more often than not, Minerva has to take care of her absent minded carer. When the older gentleman, Kermit, with whom Minerva plays chess collapses from a suspected heart attack, she's upset. She's interviewed by Detective Taylor as a matter of course, but strongly suspects that her friends was poisoned. When another resident, Serenity, who owns a nearby gym, is also poisoned but dies, Minerva knows she needs to use her detective ability in order to find out what's going on. She ropes in quiet classmate Santos Salgado to help, since Heck is often more of a danger to himself than an asset to investigations. The group is interviewing Mr. Park about the happenings in the building when he also collapses, which makes Delores, the head of the residents' association, suspicious. Of course, she is hiding secrets of her own, and when the doorman, Oscar, also dies from a suspected poisoning, everyone starts to worry in earnest. What is going on? Is this all tied to Kermit's past? Delores' criminal activity? When Bizzy herself is poisoned, Minerva and her crew have no time to waste, and find the culprit in an unexpected place. 
Strengths: My students want mysteries, but they want MURDER mysteries. Aside from Stevens' Wells and Wong series (which is set in the 1930s, so not appealing to everyone) and Beil's Swallowtail Legacy series, there are not that many books for middle grade readers with murders. There are tons of cozy mysteries for adults, with fun settings like bookstores, coffee shops, or bakeries in small towns, and you'd think this would translate to middle grade fairly well. The apartment setting is fun, Heck is a good foil for his driven older sister, and Detective Taylor strikes a good note with taking Minerva seriously. I particularly liked how the mystery was solved, and if there are other books forthcoming, this is a perfect murder mystery for even upper elementary students. 
Weaknesses: Yes, I know that middle grade characters need to be parent-free in order to have their freedom, but Minerva's parents seemed very odd, and Bizzy was not a good caregiver. There was no reason the parents couldn't have been in the building. The premise of the school "detective club" was unneccesary, and Santos wasn't a very well developed character. I would rather have seen Heck given a better role. 
What I Really Think: While I haven't seen the television show Only Murders in the Building, this seems similar to the trailers I've seen. It's a cozy mystery, in that people keep dying in not too gruesome ways, people are sad but not too devastated, and the murders are all people they don't know too well. (Spoiler: Kermit and Bizzy survive.) Bonus points for the "murderer" not being a person; let's just say that lives could have been saved by having the exterminators visit on a regular basis. I'll definitely purchase a copy. 
 Ms. Yingling


  1. The plot reminds me loosely of Only Murders in the Building as well as The Westing Game.

  2. I've been curious about this book. Glad you liked it. And it's interesting that middle graders want murder mysteries. I just reserved this at my library. Thanks.

  3. My daughter desperately wanted murder mysteries at age 8/9, and was apparently just ahead of the publishing curve. We really couldn't find anything for her at the time, especially because she didn't want supernatural books.

    There are now two series published in the last few years that I'm aware of (perhaps more!) - Aggie Morton (of which I've read the first two and enjoyed them) and the Myrtle Hardcastle series (which I have checked out, but haven't gotten to yet).