Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Great Cake Mystery

The Great Cake Mystery. Alexander McCall Smith. Random House. 96 pages. 

Have you ever said to yourself, "Wouldn't it be nice to be a detective? Most of us will never have the chance to make that dream come true. Detectives, you see, are born that way. Right from the beginning they just know that this is what they want to be. And right from the beginning they show that solving mysteries is something they can do rather well. This is the story about a girl who became a detective. Her name was Precious.

I liked this one. I definitely liked it. To clarify things I'll just mention that I have not read the book, No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, which stars Precious Ramotswe. This children's chapter book is the famous detective's first case. So if I like this one it isn't necessarily because I love the adult mystery series, I may or may not. (I do plan on reading the first book this summer, if all goes to plan.) I do find it tricky as an adult to judge early readers and chapter books because often the plots are not thrilling at all, the text can be tiresome OR predictable OR condescending OR preachy. And it's hard to know--as an adult--exactly what books are going to appeal, truly appeal, to those aged six, seven or eight. That being said, I liked this one. Why? Well. I liked the writing, the storytelling. I liked the narrator. I liked how the narrator sometimes addressed the reader. And I liked the pacing. I liked how we get to know Precious BEFORE the actual mystery begins. I liked how we get to know something of Precious and her relationship with her father. I did like her father telling a story about the lion! I *know* it has nothing to do with the main mystery in this one, I *know* that it wouldn't fit neatly into an outline of what this story is about, but I feel it does reveal something about the characters and the setting. It gives us a feel for the story, perhaps. It gives us time to get settled into the story before the "real" action begins. (And dare I say it, I almost liked this side story more than the actual mystery?) Going back to the pacing, I liked how the chapters flowed together. Yes, there was really no reason to break where they did each time, but, for me it kept me wanting to turn the page. Now turning to the mystery itself, this one has a not-so-subtle message about how you shouldn't judge people and make accusations without proof and hard evidence. You shouldn't just accuse a classmate of stealing from you just because he's overweight and in the habit of eating candy and sweets.
Accusing people of doing something wrong--lying, stealing, cheating, whatever--is serious and it's not a joke. So we learn a good, moral, common-sense lesson in how to treat others. Precious knows that there is a thief stealing things from the school from her classmates, but while other kids are quick to judge WHO is doing the stealing, Precious is slow to judge or accuse. She knows that there has to be a rational explanation for the disappearances of these sticky buns, cakes, etc. But that doesn't mean it has to be a classmate or friend. Precious determines to outwit the thief and catch him in the act...

The very things I liked about it, may not work for other people. 

Read The Great Cake Mystery
  • If you're a fan of Alexander McCall Smith
  • If you're a fan of mysteries for young readers
  • If you're looking for an interesting chapter book

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

1 comment:

Marg said...

I might try and get hold of this one just due to the curiosity factor! I really like the No. 1 Ladies books!