Kate's Reviews > Missing on Superstition Mountain

Missing on Superstition Mountain by Elise Broach
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** spoiler alert ** I wanted to like this more than I did, but I did not find the setting, the characters, or the central mystery as compelling as I did with "Shakespeare's Secret." The characters were broadly drawn; the first chapter tells us that the oldest brother Simon is a bossy know-it-all, the middle brother Henry is a quiet reader, and the youngest brother Jack is a willful kid with a temper, and the rest of the book relies on those initial characterizations without giving us any further development.

Once the first chapter has hastily set up the premise -- the Barker brothers have just moved to Superstition, Arizona, and adults' repeated warnings to stay away from Superstition Mountain have just made them more curious about it -- the pacing moves along briskly. The boys head up the mountain twice -- once right at the beginning, in pursuit of their runaway cat, and once near the end, to try to recover three skulls that they found on their first visit. In between, they make a new friend, Delilah, who helps them to investigate the history of the mountain with trips to the library (as a librarian myself, I did enjoy the depiction of the creepy Superstition librarian) and to a local geologist.

There was a good balance of resolving one mystery/adventure while leaving overarching questions to be explored in the trilogy's other books. The author's acknowledgments state that she was hoping to create "Twin Peaks for kids," and in this attempt I did not find the book successful. An intriguing concept, but the atmosphere never got too creepy or quirky.

I must admit, I might be assessing this book a little more harshly than I otherwise would, because I just read "Well Witched," in which Hardinge so masterfully crafted true-to-life characters and a pervading sense of eerieness. An interesting question for me is which of the two books a kid would prefer -- as an adult reader, I find that "Well Witched" is far superior, but is that based on adult criteria of style and craftsmanship that would not necessarily translate to a kid perspective?

**SPOILER ALERT** Since I found some of the clues scattered throughout to be rather obvious, I would just like to predict for the record that the following will happen in the two sequels: a) Hank found the Lost Dutchman's Mine ; b) Hank's box of coins with the "surprisingly shallow trough" (167) will prove to have a secret compartment; c) Officer Myers is in search of the Lost Dutchman's Mine himself and is perhaps responsible for the gunshot heard by Henry and Delilah.
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