A FAMILY TRAIT by Terri Martin


Age Range: 10 - 12
Email this review


Readers fond of lightweight mysteries solved by spunky heroines will take to this fiction debut, though a heavy ballast of tragedy and near-tragedy keeps it low to the ground. Having used the discovery of an empty hunting cabin as an excuse to form a secret club, Iris and four friends spin news reports of missing carnival receipts and the (supposedly) accidental death of the cabin’s owner, Ol’ Man Hazard, into an exciting scenario involving hidden loot and murder. Then they find a cryptic rhymed clue that mentions treasure, which they take as a broad hint that they’re on the right track. The story is carried along on sad undercurrents: Iris, called “illegitimate” by another girl in the opening pages, learns that her parents weren’t married when her father was killed in the Korean War; her tough grandmother is rushed to the hospital with severe pneumonia; Iris sets fire to the cabin and nearly suffocates inside; and the reclusive Ol’ Lady Hazard, thought to be a witch and chief suspect in her husband’s death, turns out to be the sickly, abused widow of a cruel alcoholic. While the plot never develops a compelling pace, and the story’s lessons are laid out in a concluding book report on Silas Marner, some of the dialogue and set pieces show a promising authorial gift for comedy. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1999
ISBN: 0-8234-1467-1
Page count: 156pp
Publisher: Holiday House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1999