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A Pocket Full of Murder by R. J. Anderson
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A Pocket Full of Murder

by R. J. Anderson

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A mystery about politics, power, poverty and religious prejudice set in a city powered by magic spells.

In the Breck household there isn't enough money to buy meat, let alone much-needed new shoes for Isaveth and her sisters. Isaveth's older sister has a factory job, and Isaveth tries baking spells to sell. But when her father is accused of murder, their circumstances become even more desperate. Isaveth takes inspiration from her favourite heroine Auradia and sets out to prove his innocence, with the help of her new friend, an eccentric street boy called Quiz.

The library only had this as audiobook CDs, which I found a little cumbersome, and I took while to get into the story simply because I wasn’t listening to it often enough. I took a while to warm to the narrator, too. I liked her accent and the voices she gave characters, but she has a very animated way of reading, and although that suits a twelve year old protagonist, at first it felt a bit patronising, like the narrator was assuming that the listener was also only twelve...

Anyway, I enjoyed this, and became steadily more engrossed as the story progressed. By the end I was listening to it at every chance I got. Now to find the sequel. ( )
  Herenya | Nov 19, 2017 |
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.

Isaveth is lower class and she and her family struggle to make ends meet since the death of her mother and her father losing his job. On top of that, they are Moshites and because of their religious beliefs, they are often discriminated against. Anderson managed to write about Isaveth’s plights without feeling preachy or heavy handed and Isaveth is a determined, bright heroine.

The world Anderson created blends steam power (yes!) with magic to create a world similar to our own, yet also very Victorian feeling. I especially loved the baking element of magic. Different spells and potions are crafted before they can be used. The upper-class use a different type of magic because they have different materials available to them, like metals. Isaveth, unable to afford materials like that, follows her mother’s cookbook and through her “spell baking” she creates tablets and potions at home out of ingredients like flour and sunlight.

I’m very fond of the character names Anderson uses as well. I don’t know about you, but I’m very picky when it comes to character names. Especially in the fantasy genre, it can be hard to create an original or uncommon name without making the reader mentally choke on too many vowels or consonants (ie: Cealeanae from Throne of Glass). Isaveth, Mimmi, Annagail, Lilet, Eryx, Quiz – I liked them all!

If you’re looking for a magical mystery with a Victorian feel, I highly recommend this. I’ll be purchasing the sequel as soon as it’s in paperback – gotta make sure my editions match! ( )
  MillieHennessy | Apr 19, 2017 |
R. J. Anderson has a winner with this book. A book about courage, adventure, and family ties. The students loved this one. #rjanderson #forestofreading ( )
  Carolibrarian | Feb 2, 2017 |
Ever since her mother died and her father lost his contract Isaveth is trying very hard to deal with life, her sister had to drop out of school and go to work in a factory and Izaveth decides to try to help the family by making spell tablets. It's a world with an industrial revolution that also has magic and a nasty class structure. She makes friends with a street kid Quiz, who wears an eye-patch. Her family is also part of a minority religion who are distrusted and oppressed (and the women wear a prayer-shawl).

As if all this Dickensian drama wasn't enough, her father is accused of being a murderer and taken away, in order to save the family Isaveth has to investigate and use all of her smarts to work out who is the enemy and what she can do to prove her father innocent, and the motive is twisty.

I enjoyed it, it kept me up past my bedtime. ( )
  wyvernfriend | Mar 23, 2016 |
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In Tarreton, where the rich have all the magic they wish and the poor can barely afford a spell to heat their homes, twelve-year-old Isaveth's father is accused of murdering an influential citizen and Isaveth, aided by eccentric street boy Quiz, tries to solve the magical murder mystery before her father is executed.… (more)

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