Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Review: A Mystery at Lili Villa by Arathi Menon


by Arathi Menon
Yali Books
Middle Grade Mystery
166 pages
ages 10 to 12

JULY 31st!!!

Cousins Arj, Tam, and Mira are spending their summer vacation in Elathoor, a little village in Kerala when their family home, Lili Villa, is broken into and some jewelry is stolen. The Terrific Three set out to solve the mystery but soon discover that there is no shortage of suspects. Is it Pinching Kodavis or Dumdumchecchi, the milking lady? Is it the mean fisherwoman who starves the cat or the retired nurse who owns a luxury car? Or is it Mani with his upside-down Russian secret? Who could the thief possibly be?

In a throwback to unscheduled summer vacations, this cozy mystery will charm young readers with plenty of sibling sparring, some intrepid sleuthing, and an endless parade of mouth-watering snacks.



A gentle mystery meets relative chaos and rich, Indian culture in a quick paced read.

Tam is spending her summer with her cousins, aunt and uncle in a small town in India. Considering the aunt and uncle are both busy doctors, Tam and her cousins have quite a bit of time and freedom to explore the town on their own. But the rhythm is soon disrupted when someone breaks into the home and steals the aunts jewelry. There's a hole in the roof where the perpetrator entered the house, but aside from that, the police seem to have few clues and even less interest in solving the least, in Tam's opinion. So, she and her cousins do the only thing they can do. They decide to solve the case on their own.

In some ways, this tale reminds me a tiny bit of The Penderwicks. The kids have quite a bit of freedom to explore the town around them and have a fun mashing their different personalities, while working together. The reader, of course, gets to explore right along with them. Since this one is set in a small town in India, there is quite a bit for readers to discover and learn. The small town setting and family life with the cousins is quite different than even Tam is accustom to, making it easy for the reader to connect with Tam.

While this one is sold for ten- to twelve-year-olds, the writing and style are better suited for a younger audience. Even the mystery, while wrapped up nicely, fits this age group. The descriptions were a very direct, and flowed more with a 'telling than showing' style. It is interesting and the mystery is hard to guess. There are quite a few characters involved, each interestingly presented. It makes for a fun read. I was glad to see a glossary at the end of the book to help define foods and such, which many readers won't recognize. 

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