Missing on Superstition Mountain
After their father's stonemasonry business slows down in Chicago, the three Barker brothers, along with their parents and cat, pull up stakes and move to Superstition, Arizona, for a fresh start. Superstition is a historic town "in the shadow of an enormous, craggy mountain called Superstition Mountain."
Eleven-year-old Simon Barker has a curious nature and an interest in science. At six, Jack is the youngest Barker brother. He is also the bravest and a risk taker, but has a quick temper. Ten-year-old middle child Henry is named after his great-uncle Hank. He loves to read, and his slight build makes people believe he is much younger.
It's the beginning of the summer when the Barkers move into a brown-shingled house that once belonged to Mrs. Barker's Uncle Hank Cormody, known to everyone as "crazy Uncle Hank." Most of the Barkers' new neighbors are gone on summer vacation by the time they arrive. The boys miss Chicago and the friends they left behind, and they quickly learn that the fiercely hot summers in Arizona are different from Chicago's summer heat. They also have misconceptions about their new home. Henry thinks all their neighbors are "shifty," and the boys mistakenly believe Arizona doesn't experience winter or snow, which might be due to their summertime arrival.
On a blazing day in June, the boys are sitting on their deck after lunch wondering what to do, when their beloved pet Josie leaps to her feet and heads off towards Superstition Mountain. Josie is a black cat "with a patch of white on her neck shaped like the state of Florida." She likes to explore, and after she wanders off, the three brothers follow her. Their parents have repeatedly warned the boys not to venture into the mountain. Because of rattlesnakes, mountain lions and the danger of getting lost, Superstition Mountain is off limits, but something even more sinister exists. Their journey into the mountains to find Josie turns dangerous and frightening after the boys make a grisly and disturbing discovery of three human skulls.
Superstition Mountain lives up to its reputation; it's an eerie place full of history, mystery, danger and secrets. Determined to solve the mystery of the three skulls, the boys are joined by their new neighbor, fifth-grader Delilah Dunworthy, who has a few secrets of her own.
MISSING ON SUPERSTITION MOUNTAIN by award-winning author Elise Broach is the first book in her mystery series. Broach knows how to ratchet up suspenseful elements while weaving in history of the American West --- bones in the canyon, a ghost town, a haunted mountain, people disappearing over the years, buried treasure and a town filled with secrets.
While the story is charming and the setting intriguing, at first I found it difficult to distinguish the three boys. But as I became engrossed in the mystery, the uniqueness of each of them eventually fell into place. The illustrations by Antonio Javier Caparo enhance the novel and help bring the characters to life. I look forward to reading the next book in the series.
Reviewed by Donna Volkenannt on June 21, 2011