The Curious Crime
by Julia Golding
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Pub Date 19 Oct 2018 | Archive Date 04 Apr 2019
Lion Hudson Ltd, Lion Children's Bks
A Note From the Publisher
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 12 members
Can Ree save her Da and discover the murderer?
Ree is a stonemason at the Museum; the only problem is that she is breaking the law dressing like a boy and working with her Da. It doesn’t matter that she’s talented and hardworking; all that matters is that she is a girl. And girls, as the weaker sex, are not allowed except in a few jobs, such as laundresses, maids, and cooks. Accompanied by Phil, a rather stubborn dodo, Ree works high on the scaffolding, creating masterpieces in the stone that no one will ever guess a girl carved. But one day, Ree allows her imagination to run away with her designs and circumstances align so she is discovered. While her Da escapes the death penalty, he receives a life sentence: transport, 5 years hard labor, and no return to Museum Island. Ree, Maria, is now relegated to a maid’s work done in the dark of night so the boys will not be damaged by coming into contact with the weaker sex. But the Museum is changing, the rules getting harsher, and girls might be banned altogether. Just as things are getting worse, someone is murders the new Museum head and the next… Can Ree and her new “detective” friend, Henri, discover the murderer?
The Curious Crime is a wonderfully complex fantasy that has you wishing you could find yourselves in the depths of such a museum, discovering old abandoned rooms of artifacts, visiting with brainy and quirky scientists, clambering about the roof and exploring tunnels. But while the Museum is dedicated to knowledge and discovery, it has changed through the years and the rules put in place that some say will protect the integrity of the science. Female scientists are banned, as are any religious people, no matter their beliefs, and certain races are denigrated because they are “inferior.” While the Museum has been allowed to rule its own territory, the rules have become harsher and more prejudiced. As each head takes their place, they change the rules to fit their own desires, rather than considering the good of the true Museum and its scientists.
The Curious Crime has an interesting mystery, strong characters – male and female, and fantastic world-building. On top of the immersive story, there are so many threads to our own past and the prejudices that have colored scientific advances. From sexism, racism, religious intolerance, and people working only for their own agendas, there is so much here that is relevant to our own history and current events. Whether a person is agnostic, atheist, Muslim, Christian, etc., should have no bearing on how the world judges their discoveries and theories. Whether one is a male or female should have no bearing on what one is allowed to choose as a profession, what one must wear, or how one must act. And one’s race should not define one’s role in the world or how one is treated. Diversity is understanding that we all are valuable and we are all worthy of being treated with respect and dignity no matter the shape of our head or our race, gender, religion, etc. (Yes, there is major prejudice in the book and in our own past based on the shape and bumps of one’s head.) There is so much here about equality, justice, and the inhumanity of prejudice, and yet it is all wrapped neatly into a brilliantly enjoyable tale.
I especially love how the book brings out how science changes through the ages, and what we have once held as proven scientific fact and vigorously opposed changing turns out to be false and the new theory, such as the earth revolves around the sun, is proven true. The world is flat; now the world is round. (Except to modern day flat-earthers, which I had never heard of until lately.) We have junk DNA until scientists realized it was simply that they didn’t know what was encoded there. The appendix was useless, as was the tonsils, until doctors realized they were part of our immune system. Science and scientific knowledge grow and expand upon the previous generation’s knowledge. It wasn’t that the previous scientists were stupid, it’s that we have better equipment, start with a bigger picture, and build our new science on top of the platform the previous generation created.
Highly recommended for those who love science, archaeology, history, mysteries, etc., and those who would give anything to be able to wander a huge museum at night alone, unguided, and uncensored.
I received this book as an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) from the publisher through NetGalley. My opinions are my own.
An okay mystery/ crime book with an interesting premise. The alternate world that Ree and Henri populate with the struggles of science and religious belief warring is an interesting one. I just think in trying to create a discussion on the roles of science and religion and the fact that they can co-exist ( not a common thought, but still a reasonable one) takes a toll on the complexity of the mystery involved. It also renders some characters as stock characters. This is not an awful book, but is is not also a great one.
Thoroughly enjoyed this,great setting and interesting characters. Thought provoking ideas too. Julia Golding. an always be relied on to produce an intersting child friendly read.
The Curious Crime by Julia Golding was not a terrible book, in fact parts of it were quite fantastic. But unfortunately the book sent a message that I had an extremely hard time stomaching. My initial disgust with the book itself did ebb somewhat as I continued on, which is something I felt relieved about as I nearly did not finish this book. I understood Golding’s desire to show the benefits of “why” questions, however it became difficult to take her seriously the very moment God was brought up. The book is somewhat littered with a disregard for scientific thought, lacking a developed understanding of the fact that “why” questions are not absent from science nor discouraged in any real sense, but rather that unproveable facts are not given merit as true answers.
Science is founded on why questions just as much as how. The why and the how meld together to create our amazing ability to find truth. Why is it that a plant grows when I give it water? How does the plant grow? They’re not separate from each other. What Golding references in The Curious Crime are the why questions that have yet to find verified answers and tries to puport faith, which has absolutely no verification thus far, as a reasonable answer. God is a theory, one that definitively has no facts to back it at this current point in time. And the only issue science takes with religion is when people make claims that God is a truth which cannot ever be denied, a declaration that is blatantly ridiculous. I truly do not think Golding, as far as the book she has written implies, fully understands this. For someone who can be quoted as having said that scientists accept and/or welcome the possibility of being proven wrong, it baffles me that Golding would portray it as she does. I had huge problems with her push for religion and faith as well as the insulting way she portrays science in this book. It’s a take I cannot agree with.
Barring the religious nature of the novel, the book was fairly good. I had initially been rather excited to read it, especially as the book started off with a rather brilliant plot involving a young female character who has to fight for the right to work in a job that has been decided upon as one only a man can hold. It’s set in a museum, which was ridiculously exciting, and the motivation for main character, Ree, was wonderfully tantalizing. There’s so much promise within the start of the book that it was utterly devastating to have so much taken away from the book by the overall message. Thus, as a result, the book quickly became rather mediocre, the only thing pushing it along being the mystery of who the murderer is—the answer was rather anti-climactic—Ree’s secret is revealed far too quickly, a massive time jump is made, and frankly I was baffled as to Henri’s purpose in the book as it did somewhat take away from Ree’s character.
There is a mild commentary on race and racism, just barely making itself known. They’re almost blink and you miss it moments varying from brief references to Henri’s home and mother and then eventually a single comment from the menagerie keeper. Overall, the commentary was rather subpar to what I would expect in 2018, though I guess it’s better than having nothing at all and I did appreciate that there was at least some diversity included within the story. But ultimately there were a number of things I just didn’t like about this book and I’ve been in the position in the past of having read some really impressive books about young girls breaking the bounds of societal expectations for their genders that don’t fall into the problematic issue of pushing religion in a manner that so brazenly defames science, the worst part lying in what appears to be the author’s own ignorance on the matter.. It disturbed me greatly to see it in a book, and a middlegrade one at that.
So, perhaps The Curious Crime simply wasn’t for me.
Just as a final note, I do have to say that I’m rather in love with the cover. It’s gorgeous, inclusive, and quite enticing.
Everything about this book was fantastic. I can imagine my middle school self, holing up in my bedroom for hours devouring its pages. It conjures up the best of books in similar genres, the museum is just as mysterious and vast as Hogwarts. The animal companions read like the daemons in The Golden Compass. However, this story lends a credible note as it doesn’t deal with magic, but is more of an alternate reality with a dystopian twist.
Each and every character, including the furry and feathered ones, are brought to life with vivid detail. Ree, spunky and independent female lead character in a male dominated world speaks to “girl power” without the disrespect that often accompanies that attitude. Henri, the perfect level-headed complement to Ree, is intelligent and thoughtful, a voice of reason in a world of pseudo-science. The menagerie of now extinct animals gives the entire tale a humorous element, Phil the Dodo my obvious favorite. I can just imagine his playful nips and smell the down as he ruffles his feathers.
The wide range of topics touched on by this story are made age appropriate and easy to understand, while remaining true to the message. Finding a harmonious balance between science and religion is something we’re made to face early on in life, and the author is successful in finding a middle ground that is neither blasphemous or offensive. Focusing on the respecting of other’s values, the equality of intellects and abilities between men and women, and the importance of every profession, whether menial or cerebral, artistic or everyday maintenance. All points are dealt with gracefully and playfully, without malice or contempt.
Kudos to this author for creating a masterpiece of humor and depth for the middle school set. It’s an intelligent addition to a market often saturated with twaddle.
I received this via netgalley by the publisher.
I wanted to love this. This cover was so cute but when I started reading the book and got into the book I decided to DNF the book. I did not like the portrayal of science overtaking religion. This is a concept that I think should not be put in middle grade books. I don't feel kids needs to be involved in having their minds torn. Some children are taught in home about religion so this could disturb a child's thoughts.
Almost from the beginning, I kept seeing this story as a movie, something along the lines of Nanny McPhee. It has the adventure of the huge, labyrinth-like museum, the good guys and the villains, the suspense of being in forbidden locations, exotic animals as pets - all those things that keep us turning the pages.
The Museum is the heart of civilization once God and religion are relegated to their proper places (banned), and science has assumed its role as the force that turns the world. The female of the species is to be seen and not heard, cooking and tending to the household chores. Persons of different ethnicities are to be regarded, but with caution. Though this description tends to conjure visions of ninjas in silver-colored uniforms, the setting is actually earlier, before man became enlightened, not after.
Ree, a girl who works as a stonemason (and disguised as a boy) is caught and allowed to be a maid, a lesser penalty than she might have endured had it not been that her father was sentenced to hard labor for allowing her to work in a profession forbidden to women. He received the harsher punishment, enabling her to remain free, yet diminished and vulnerable. Henri, a scholar who is on the cusp of discovering a method for discerning unseen fingerprints, becomes Ree's partner in solving the two crimes committed in the Museum. Their partnership also precipitates the movement of the culture toward a kinder, gentler, and more enlightened age.
It's difficult to tell which is the subplot: Is it is the events that lead to the crimes or is it the question of whether God Is? Very clever to pose such a profound notion in such a seemingly simple plot. Very clever, indeed.
The Curious Crime is an uncomplicated yet interesting story, well worth reading. I enjoyed it. Thanks to Netgalley and Lion Hudson publishers for the advanced copy.