Summary and Story:
Cousins Arj, Tam, and Mira are spending their summer vacation in Elathoor, a little village in Kerala when their family home, Lili Villa, is broken into and some jewelry is stolen. The Terrific Three set out to solve the mystery but soon discover that there is no shortage of suspects. Is it Pinching Kodavis or Dumdumchecchi, the milking lady? Is it the mean fisherwoman who starves the cat or the retired nurse who owns a luxury car? Or is it Mani with his upside-down Russian secret? Who could the thief possibly be?
In a throwback to unscheduled summer vacations, this cozy mystery will charm young readers with plenty of sibling sparring, some intrepid sleuthing, and an endless parade of mouth-watering snacks.
I have grown up on a generous dose of Enid Blytons. Famous Five, Five Find-Outers, and Secret Seven. Into my teens, I switched to Nancy Drews and Hardy Boys. Kids and teens solving mysteries were always a part of my regular reads. But looking back now, I do realize we were rarely exposed to similar books from Indian authors. Characters we could relate to, with experiences more like ours.
A Mystery at Lili Villa by Arathi Menon is a delightful story of three sleuthing preteens. Siblings Arj and Mira and their city cousin Tam. It is based in Elathoor, a little village in Kerala where everyone knows everyone. There is a theft in the house and the three kids decide to solve the crime on their own. And as always, warnings by adults have little or no effect.
I generally don’t pick up middle-grade books but there was something about the blurb that appealed to me. Reading it was a trip down memory lane. Growing up in a time with little or no television, summer vacations meant playing outside until it got dark. Grabbing our bicycles and exploring the cantonment. Or setting out on an adventure, unearthing the secrets of one historical structure or another. Always under a watchful eye, though.
The writing style is suited for a young audience. And so is the mystery. Although it is marketed as middle grade, the book would also appeal to younger kids too. The cover is rather cute and sets the tone of the book. The glossary at the end is the cherry on top. A humorous description of Hindi and Malayali words, and food.
How can I miss the food? It is sure to make your mouth water just by reading about it. Lip-smacking delicacies churned out by the cook, Pitamma, as the little sleuths rack their brains on who the thief might be. No wonder she is last on their list for questioning.
Unlike most middle-grade books, this one does not preach. The kids were not perfect neither precocious. But regular kids looking for an adventure. The settings were realistic (of course, there were some creative liberties). It does delve into some “grown-up” topics such as counterfeit medicine. But in a simplistic way.
I highly recommend the book and it would make an excellent gift for kids and preteens. If you are a parent who has grown up on Enid Blytons and want your child to share a similar experience, do pick up this book. And if you are not a parent, pick this one for yourself. I am already looking forward to the next book in the series, The Mystery at the Mumbai Turf Club.Blog Tour: A Mystery at Lili Villa by Arathi Menon #BookReview @ArathiMen0n @YaliBooks @lonelypagesBT #BohoPonderings Click To Tweet
About the Author
Arathi Menon is an author and a columnist, currently based in London. She published her first book Leaving Home With Half A Fridge in 2015. She has received a highly commendable mention at the 2018 FAB Awards and was a part of a group exhibit at the Tate Modern, London in 2019 and 2020. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. She loves a good story, all animals, and pink tuck.
I would like to thank Lonely Pages Book Tours and the publisher for providing a copy of the book for the blog tour. All opinions are my own.
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