Sherlock Sam and the Missing Heirloom in Katong: Case 1 – A. J. Low

3 out of 5

I’ll be up front about my whitey white tastes and say that, had I glanced at this book a little closer and noticed the proliferation of Asian terms (an appendix of food dishes; the back cover mentions he’s Singapore’s greatest kid detective), I probably wouldn’t have picked it up.  Which sounds way racist – maybe it is? – but the sinister cover and noir-sounding subtitle had me thinking this would just be a kid’s take on a pulp novel, with some goofy additions like a robot; the terminology is a hint that it’s more likely going to be a ‘lets learn about culture!’ book.

So nothing against Asians, I just want my learnings kept out of my books, or at least presented subtly so I’m tricked into it.  Blasting me with facts every paragraph is annoying, and in this case seems more like something you foist on someone than a likely actual kid interest (i.e. kids might want to learn about dinosaurs, but… Singapore?).  Its akin to my grandmother always giving me Jewish themed kids books when I was a youngster.  I mean, some were cool, but i knew the game, and those books never made an impact.

Ignorance justified?  No?  Well, thank yer lucky stars, I’m out of arguments.

And look at those stars: Three.  Not bad!

For while A.J. Low (actually husband and wife team Adan Jimenez and Felicia Low-Jimenez) do perpetrate their educational scheme as feared, there’s also a fairly well done step-by-step mystery in here, when Samuel Tan Cher Lock (aka Sherlock Sam) and his invented robot pal Watson help to track down Sam’s Auntie’s missing cookbook, an especially prized heirloom for Sam, a prodigious eater of its productions.  Chapter by chapter Sherlock walks us though clues – showing and telling his reasoning – to knock off possibility after possibility (fitting in an equal amount of eating opportunities) until the mystery is resolved.  There’s nothing especially involving about this mystery for adult readers, but the deductive work is good for youngsters, and I appreciate that the What Happened of it all isn’t an easy-out “it was under the sofa the whole time!” kinda deal.

Wrapping back around to my initial complaint, I would add that I didn’t find the excessive terminology to especially blend too well with the story; it was distracting.  In general, the book is a little cluttered with premises, with Sam both an inventor and a detective for no discernible reason and some asides about a hamster that act absolutely as filler.  But that the star is a chubby kid who unashamedly eats and eats might be inspiring if you’re in the same physical boat.

Anyhow, I’ve got non-learning to get back to.