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A Pocket Full of Murder

(Uncommon Magic #1)

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  964 ratings  ·  174 reviews
In the spell-powered city of Tarreton, the wealthy have all the magic they desire while the working class can barely afford a simple spell to heat their homes. Twelve-year-old Isaveth is poor, but she’s also brave, loyal, and zealous in the pursuit of justice—which is lucky, because her father has just been wrongfully arrested for murder.

Isaveth is determined to prove her
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published September 8th 2015 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
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May 14, 2014 added it  ·  (Review from the author)
Just finished reading the ARC aloud to my youngest son, to whom the book is dedicated. I dearly wish I'd recorded his reaction when we got to a certain part of the story, but it was classic -- "YOU PLOT-TWISTER! HOW CAN YOU -- WHY DID YOU -- HOW DID YOU EVEN DO THAT?!?" So I think it's safe to say he didn't see it coming, and that made me very happy indeed.

We also had to read the last six chapters all in one sitting tonight, since he was wringing his hands in despair that my characters could eve

Arc provided by Atheneum Books through Edelweiss

Book Status: Released September 8th


There was a time in which I had to write a review immediately after I had finished whatever book I was reading... now I kind of dread this moment, because I haven't felt all that much love for the arcs I've been reading lately.
This story unfortunately follows the same pattern. *sigh*

I have to admit that practically after page one I had to force myself to keep reading this. Never a good sign.
My main problem
Jun 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
This is MG in the vein of Sarah Prineas's The Magic Thief: delightful stuff. Good worldbuilding, good characterization, a great plot. There's some French-Revolution-esque dissidence, some politicking, quite a few spies, and a brief examination of poverty and persecution, all wrapped into a really warm story about friendship.

The story is possible because the adults are kept out of the way so the kids can solve crimes, but at least there are good reasons for that. And if there's the fantasy that
Short  Reviews

Wow, that was just fantastic!
I wish I had finished it sooner. but part of me kept stalling simply because I didn't WANT the novel to end.

This novel can be best described as fantasy, with a dash dystopian.

I freaked when the novel started off on that typical POOR vs RICH dystopian route, with the angry-common-folk-trying-to-start-a-revolution thang going on - in fact, I was tsk-tsking and pursing my lips in disappointment - and then as I continued reading, R.J.'s excellent writing skills ensured
Intisar Khanani
Dec 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Oh, I enjoyed this MG fantasy / mystery story. I wish the ability to do magic was investigated a bit more (you just bake and if you have magic, it works out and you have a spell tablet? Surely there's some effort involved in getting your magic to work?). But, all told, that was a minor annoyance. The story is fun and well-paced, and the main characters a pleasure to read. ...more
Feb 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
What a wonderful book full of magic. Again, I normally don't read these tween kind of books, but the title I admit grabbed my attention. This is an action packed book that had me flipping the pages as fast as I could. This book series is a strong contender for me to follow up and read the next one in the series. ...more
Brandy Painter
Originally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.

R.J. Anderson is one of my favorite authors. Being a voracious reader, I have a lot of authors I really like, but she is included in a special group of authors whose books I would scoop up in my arms if I was escaping my house in a disaster. They are all excellent and stand up to multiple rereads. Anderson has written books about (awesome) faerys and amazing girls in a mind boggling sci-fi duology. Her latest book, A Pocket Full of Murder
E.K. Johnston
Sep 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I love this book so very much.

The things I love about it are, but by no means limited to:
1. Fanfiction as a coping mechanism
2. Food vs. new clothes vs. new shoes
4. Murder
5. Sissssssssssters
6. Politics
7. "Toronto"
8. Isaveth, just, oh, my heart.
9. The Moshites are oppressed do badly that the Unifying church struck an *entire day* from the week, just to be jerks to them.
11. Also: crime.

Like the best Middle Grade, Anderso
I bought this one on impulse and good grief was it a good impulse.

An amazing mystery. Excellent characters. Families which feel real, from the younger siblings to the parents. FANTASTIC world building-- a depression-era world fuelled by spell craft-- my WORD just fantastic. This one is going on my award slates.
Miss Clark
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jeff Raymond
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 int
K.A. Wiggins
Apr 08, 2020 added it
Shelves: canadian
Great balance of fun action/adventure fantasy with some heavier themes and topics.

I loved the "baking magic" idea, and the political/social unrest, classism, and religious discrimination (maybe referencing Judaism?) were well done. Good for generating discussions with upper elementary or middle school readers.

The romance subplot seems like it might appeal to younger YA readers as well (main character is 12, so solidly middle grade on that end.)
We just didn't click, me and this book.

The tinge of romance made me wonder if I'd like it more as a YA.

I might still read the next one.
I am going to shamelessly steal from this review because it perfectly expresses why this book fell flat for me: A Pocket Full of Murder is an awkward blend of fantasy and mystery that unfortunately disappoints on both levels.
There is some real potential in the world building. There is a justice system, city council, press, religious dissidents, and levels of magic that all feel unique and interesting. But then there is also the tendency to just re-name random words without much reason why. (For
Jul 27, 2017 rated it it was ok
Booktubeathon book number 4 of 7 is done! 2/5 stars because the plot, the events, the characters, the world, and the writing were all somewhat bland. Maybe APFoM was just not the book for me but at any rate, unfortunately, I did not enjoy this book.
Liz at Midnight Bloom Reads
Sep 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
R.J. Anderson's latest middle grade novel, A Pocket Full of Murder, introduces a memorable fantasy world divided by religion and social class as twelve-year-old Isaveth Breck races against time to solve a murder and save her father. In the spell-powered city of Tarreton, the wealthy nobility use a refined magic called Sagery while commoners use the more practical, everyday magic simply called Common Magic. But this magical world is far from wondrous—while the nobility live in lavish excess, the ...more
Aug 25, 2016 rated it it was ok
This book was, in my opinion, very boring. I didn't feel any connection to the characters, but I did like the magic in this book. The way it worked was interesting--it's cooked (baked). I think that was the best thing about this book. The ending was all right. I didn't expect the bad guy to be who it was. Also, it was nice to find out who Quiz really is. ...more
Belles Middle Grade Library
Jun 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I finished this last night, & I really loved it!! It’s so good! It’s such a good mystery! I never knew what was going to happen, & there were soooo many surprising parts to the ending! I adored all these characters-Quiz(love that name!), & all the sisters. I could imagine everything perfectly & I loved this place the author created. I loved all the amazing & unique names-from the characters, the religions, the street names, the city, neighborhood names..all of it. With everything going on in the ...more
Apr 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
This review and others posted over at my blog.

Here’s a middle-grade mystery adventure that deals with religious persecution, the struggle of the lower class, the use (and abuse) of welfare (known as “relief” in the book) and standing up for justice, no matter the cost. Looking back, there are some potentially heavy themes in this book, but they were folded neatly into the story of a young girl who aspires to uphold justice like her favorite champion in the talkie series and save her father.

Emma Rose Ribbons
Jun 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this novel very much indeed. While it did have a lot of fantasy elements I'd seen before, it was also pretty original - it explored the life of a working-class family, for one, and the way magic works was rather unique (you can bake magic they way you would a cake and sell it). The mystery was alright, I thought, but what I enjoyed the most was the worldbuilding and the relationship between the sisters. I don't think I'll reread this but I'm looking forward to the sequel. ...more
Feb 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really like this book! It was really interesting and a great read.
Sep 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Good solid middle-grade fun! Workers unions vs. faux-progressive politicians and some of the less-cringeworthy fantasy!Jewishness I've encountered. ...more
Isaveth's father has been arrested for the murder of one of Tarreton's most important people but she knows he can't have done it. With the help of new friend Quiz, she is determined to solve the mystery and save her father. ...more
Steven R. McEvoy
Sep 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2017
I read book two, A Little Taste of Poison, in this series a year ago. It took me a while to get back to book one. I loved both books and think they are a great series. Having read book two first I had some ideas about this book. But that did not detract from the reading. I was introduced to R.J. Anderson and her works at a local book launch. I am very thankful for that. I have loved both books in this series, and hope there will be more. I am also looking forward to trying some of Anderson’s oth ...more
An adorable story, really.

Some might say it's predictable, and while it is, readers must keep in mind the audience this book was intended for.
Isaveth is a poor girl who dabbles in Common Magic. She is sweet, full of gusto, loyal, and clever. Together with her new found friend, Quiz, they're the Detective Duo of the streets! They try to solve the mystery of a murder, one her father was wrongly accused of. We get a feel of this little magical world as the two explore and experience their surroun
Best of 2015. Totally want more of this world; please write a sequel! Loved the prickly mc; the world building was terrific (lots of parallels to our world can be found); and the mystery kept twisting and turning till the end.

Interesting bit of the mc's religion (parallels to certain religions here) and her family being treated with persecution, distrust, animosity and fear--all of this is handled deftly.

There's a lot more going on in this book than the not so very good cover might suggest. De
Jan 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Debbie Ohi
Sep 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mg-middle-grade
Just finished this recently and thoroughly enjoyed it: a wonderful middle grade novel packed with mystery, magic and plot twists. And now I desperately want to learn how to bake spells!
Jennifer McCague
Dec 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya-books
I am now searching for the sequel...
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R.J. (Rebecca) Anderson was born in Uganda, raised in Ontario, and has spent much of her life dreaming of other worlds entirely. She is the author of ten traditionally published fantasy/SF books for children and teens, including the UK-bestselling faery romance KNIFE. Her new Flight and Fire Trilogy begins with SWIFT and NOMAD in Aug/Nov. 2020, ending with the brand-new novel TORCH in February 202 ...more

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