The Mystery Next Door
by Michael Rodney Moore
Genre: Middle Grade / Mystery, Thriller & Suspense
Print Length: 259 pages
Reviewed by Alexandria Ducksworth
Whatever kind of literary magic Michael Rodney Moore has composed, it’s working!
There’s something about southern mystery that brings out a childlike wonder. The Mystery Next Door becomes addictive when Moore brings out old tales of piracy and long-lost treasure. It’s the type of adventure one would recognize from movies such as The Goonies (1985) and Tom & Huck (1995). Whose inner child didn’t wish they could find secret treasure in their own backyard?
Moore’s book begins with young Zoey Morganton as she moves into a small town with her mother in North Carolina. It isn’t long until she learns about the mysterious plantation not too far from her home: Oak Harbor. The house is covered with many secrets, ranging from a crazed slaveowner to a secret pirate treasure. Zoey can’t help her growing curiosity as she finds herself exploring Oak Harbor. There’s more to the plantation and the original owner’s history than she realizes.
One of the most captivating aspects of The Mystery Next Door is its exploration of Oak Harbor’s history. Moore delves into the complex dynamics of the 19th-century South, addressing topics such as slavery and the Civil War without it being too much for younger readers.
As Zoey Morganton delves deeper into the history of Oak Harbor, readers are treated to an alluring journey through time. Readers become engaged with the golden age of piracy and life in the South (before and after the Civil War). Although the characters in these times are fictional, it does provoke educational interest as Moore’s research shines through the pages.
When it comes to most history stories, a stark black-and-white contrast is portrayed of the good and bad guys. Slaveowners during the Civil War era are usually portrayed as absolute villains (and with good reason); most of them did not treat their slaves with much respect. But when Zoey discovers the history of Oak Harbor’s first owner, it sheds a new light. Readers will discover that there can also be a hidden motive.
The Mystery Next Door is a fun & delightful read. Middle school readers who are exploring the American South in other classes and those who relish in satisfying mysteries and adventure are going to love this story. Moore has a way of making history interesting and immediate, bringing it to life with hidden diaries and strong characterization. We tend to think of history one way, rarely thinking it could be another. Then a book like this comes along.
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