A Pocket Full of Murder by R.J. Anderson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
There's a habit in middle grade fiction to blur genres a bit to grab a broader audience. Sometimes it works, but sometimes it's a mess a bit. A Pocket Full of Murder is a murder mystery wrapped in fantasy elements, neither of which ends up being compelling enough to sustain a narrative on its own.
The good? A pretty interesting magic system that ends up being almost completely unimportant to the overall plot by the time the story ramps up. A mystery that, on the surface, sounds compelling and interesting.
The bad? Most everything else. When you set up a fantasy universe and then basically abandon it, why bother with it at all? The answer, of course, is to bolster the mystery aspects, but it's clear the magic is a bit of a crutch to flesh out what ends up being a pretty straightforward tale without a lot of reason to call it a "mystery" at all. It almost feels like the book is looking to use the existing tropes and expectations to mask a story that doesn't really work and, more importantly, would not appeal to the kids its geared toward without the gimmicks.
A solid pass here. I had decent expectations for this, and it didn't even really come close.
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