The Mystery of Hollow Inn
(Middle Grade Detective)
By Tara Ellis
Visiting her Aunt and Uncle on break with her best friend, Sam soon finds herself deep in a mystery. Something has been haunting the inn her Uncle runs. What’s worse is it’s driving all the customers away, but beneath the stories is a true tale of gold, and Sam is determined to find it.
The writing in the book was lower and acceptable for the grade level. I’d have to say it fits anyone in third or fourth grade. Any higher and they might not find some of the dialogue believable, as I did many times.
The worst part of the writing—and probably one of the deciding factors for the lower grade—is the story is all written in present tense. I’m not sure why the author decided to do so. Most stories of this nature are past tense, and combine it with the dialogue, along with some of the explanatory chunks, especially at the beginning, and everything starts going south. Some authors can pull this off, and when they do, it is sparkling. However, here it just sags and is disruptive.
As for characters, Sam and Ally come across as loveable little girls, but as they are mentioned as being ‘pre-teen,’ I don’t see their actions or behavior as believable as I would like.
Also, little is done to develop their characters. By the end, I still had no distinct line in my head to which was which. I pretty much allotted them to the ‘main girls’ group—the ones we are supposed to rout for. Besides that, I didn’t feel a difference between them, except for maybe Ally liked her phone a lot—if that is a character trait.
I liked the structure for the most part. It dove into the mystery quickly, added wonderful details to the backstory along the way, and had hidden twists and turns, overall.
Still I’d have to say I wasn’t impressed with the flow. Many of the events happened by pure coincidence, which when it comes to stories is rather off-putting. If something happens, I want the characters to figure it out or cause it. In the end, even the bad guy was labored, and the reveal uneventful.
If you’ve read the above critique, you may be wondering why I gave this three and a half stars at all. Well, it had the bones of something good. Had the author switched the tenses, it would’ve been a tighter story. I hope with the following adventures (it is a series), the author puts more thought and planning into the events of the plot. Far too often while I was reading, I felt like I was watching an episode of Scooby Doo, especially in the end. All I was waiting for was the bad guy to say, “And I would’ve gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for those meddling girls,”—which actually, he kind of did.
Check the book out here.
Check out the author’s blog, here.