by Julia Golding
Can Ree save her Da and discover the murderer?
Ree is a stonemason at the Museum; the only problem is that she is breaking the law dressing like a boy and working with her Da. It doesn’t matter that she’s talented and hardworking; all that matters is that she is a girl. And girls, as the weaker sex, are not allowed except in a few jobs, such as laundresses, maids, and cooks. Accompanied by Phil, a rather stubborn dodo, Ree works high on the scaffolding, creating masterpieces in the stone that no one will ever guess a girl carved. But one day, Ree allows her imagination to run away with her designs and circumstances align so she is discovered. While her Da escapes the death penalty, he receives a life sentence: transport, 5 years hard labor, and no return to Museum Island. Ree, Maria, is now relegated to a maid’s work done in the dark of night so the boys will not be damaged by coming into contact with the weaker sex. But the Museum is changing, the rules getting harsher, and girls might be banned altogether. Just as things are getting worse, someone is murders the new Museum head and the next… Can Ree and her new “detective” friend, Henri, discover the murderer?
The Curious Crime is a wonderfully complex fantasy that has you wishing you could find yourselves in the depths of such a museum, discovering old abandoned rooms of artifacts, visiting with brainy and quirky scientists, clambering about the roof and exploring tunnels. But while the Museum is dedicated to knowledge and discovery, it has changed through the years and the rules put in place that some say will protect the integrity of the science. Female scientists are banned, as are any religious people, no matter their beliefs, and certain races are denigrated because they are “inferior.” While the Museum has been allowed to rule its own territory, the rules have become harsher and more prejudiced. As each head takes their place, they change the rules to fit their own desires, rather than considering the good of the true Museum and its scientists.
The Curious Crime has an interesting mystery, strong characters – male and female, and fantastic world-building. On top of the immersive story, there are so many threads to our own past and the prejudices that have colored scientific advances. From sexism, racism, religious intolerance, and people working only for their own agendas, there is so much here that is relevant to our own history and current events. Whether a person is agnostic, atheist, Muslim, Christian, etc., should have no bearing on how the world judges their discoveries and theories. Whether one is a male or female should have no bearing on what one is allowed to choose as a profession, what one must wear, or how one must act. And one’s race should not define one’s role in the world or how one is treated. Diversity is understanding that we all are valuable and we are all worthy of being treated with respect and dignity no matter the shape of our head or our race, gender, religion, etc. (Yes, there is major prejudice in the book and in our own past based on the shape and bumps of one’s head.) There is so much here about equality, justice, and the inhumanity of prejudice, and yet it is all wrapped neatly into a brilliantly enjoyable tale.
I especially love how the book brings out how science changes through the ages, and what we have once held as proven scientific fact and vigorously opposed changing turns out to be false and the new theory, such as the earth revolves around the sun, is proven true. The world is flat; now the world is round. (Except to modern day flat-earthers, which I had never heard of until lately.) We have junk DNA until scientists realized it was simply that they didn’t know what was encoded there. The appendix was useless, as was the tonsils, until doctors realized they were part of our immune system. Science and scientific knowledge grow and expand upon the previous generation’s knowledge. It wasn’t that the previous scientists were stupid, it’s that we have better equipment, start with a bigger picture, and build our new science on top of the platform the previous generation created.
Highly recommended for those who love science, archaeology, history, mysteries, etc., and those who would give anything to be able to wander a huge museum at night alone, unguided, and uncensored.
I received this book as an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) from the publisher through NetGalley. My opinions are my own.
Is curiosity a crime? Ree discovers the unfairness of being a girl in a male-dominated scientific world, where alternative ideas are swiftly squashed. Enter a fantasy island where Phil the dodo and other unusual wild animals roam corridors, great halls and an underground network of passages of a magnificent museum and science academy. Prevented from following her creative passion as a stonemason, Ree is confined to cleaning the halls at night as a maid. But then the murders start happening… A determined scholar Henri and strong-willed Ree join forces to solve the mysteries and prove their innocence.