The Case of the Disappearing Corpse by June Whyte

The Case of the Disappearing Corpse by June Whyte
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Young Adult, Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (83 Pages)
Age Recommendation: 10+
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

The Case of the Disappearing Corpse is a prequel to a series of hilarious mysteries starring Chiana Ryan, an almost-13-year-old wannabe crime writer.

When a babysitter discovers a dead body in her garden, Cha decides to use all her super-sleuth talents to hunt down the murderer–and just maybe win the online crime-writing contest with her story. It’s not as if there’s any lack of clues.

First, there’s the suspicious pink handkerchief with the letter K embroidered in the corner. Then a bent old man in a grey cardigan and baggy trousers tells Cha all about the two aliens who landed their space-mobile on the church roof. And what about the disappearing body that turns up two days later in the garden shed?

With the help of her friends, and against the firm advice of a local police officer, Cha leaps into the mystery and discovers–almost too late–there’s a big difference between a storybook mystery and the real thing.

How do you solve a mystery when everyone else is trying to keep you away from the scene of the crime?

Chiana is at an age when she thinks she knows more than the adults in her life. Only time will tell if she is right. I’ve read one of her past adventures, and it was fun to catch up with a character that I’d met before. She’s lodged firmly between childhood and early adulthood. Ms. Whyte captures this sometimes turbulent stage in life with ease. The best scenes involve Chiana slowly learning to understand why adults say and do certain things as she slowly begins to grow up.

I hope to see Chiana mature as an individual in the future. There are glimmers of personal growth in her personality in this instalment of her adventures, but she has more or less remained the same girl I knew in her previous book. At times the repetitiveness of these old conflicts and story arches distracted me from an otherwise engaging plot.

There were also a few plot holes that were never really addressed. Chiana’s investigation includes conversations with people who seem very unlikely to share their findings with a civilian. While it was really interesting to see how she goes about gathering clues, certain scenes would have made more sense had this tale been set in a less privacy-conscious era.

It was difficult to determine the most appropriate age range for this story. The plot and dialogue are written for mid to late elementary students, but the inclusion of a few frightening and potentially disturbing scenes made me bump the age recommendation up to 10+ due to some violent content. None of the scenes are particularly graphic, but I do recommend parental discretion for sensitive and younger readers.

This book is part of a series, but it can be read easily as a standalone novel. It is a plot-based storyline, and as I mentioned earlier Chiana and her friends don’t seem to change a great deal from one adventure to the next. I have only read some of Chiana’s cases but I had no trouble filling in the pieces from the tales I haven’t started yet.

The Case of the Disappearing Corpse is a thrilling murder mystery for middle grade readers. Why not give it a try today?

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