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Reviewed by Sarah Scheele for Readers' Favorite
The Tiara Mystery by Karen Meyer is a children’s historical novel set in 1880s Dayton, Ohio. Young Claire Russell is heartbroken by the possible eviction of her family from their lovely home, which serves as a small boarding-house. With the assistance of dashing Orville Wright, Claire, her brother Reuben, and their friends put on a play to earn money to pay off their father’s debts. But the imaginary mystery in the play’s plot is soon overshadowed by a real one. Things keep disappearing from the house. Mysterious noises abound in the night. Claire’s cat goes missing one evening. With the future uncertain, and the fate of her family and their boarders up in the air, can Claire learn to trust God and find out who’s really behind all this?
An introduction to the 1880s for children doesn’t get any better than this. It’s rare to find a historical book that nails research and entertainment equally well, but Karen Meyer has done that and more in The Tiara Mystery. The story’s effortlessness made me feel like I’d stepped into 19th century America for a day, experiencing the accurately shown world of Dayton, Ohio that Claire and her circle lived in. But the mystery didn’t lag behind the solid facts and the endearing set of characters, each perfectly placed against a structured, naturally developed plot, which built the Russell family and their boarders (the elegant German countess, the prim schoolteacher, Miss Green, the bullying Mr. Drummond with his surprise flair for acting, and the rest) into a fun, absolutely real set of people. This is a book I’d pick up more than once and be sure to pass around as well.