Marvelous Murder Mystery on the Moon
by Stuart Gibbs
Series: Moon Base Alpha (Book 1)
Publication Date: September 16, 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Starred Reviews: Kirkus
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It’s a murder mystery on the moon in this humorous and suspenseful space adventure from the author of Belly Up and Spy School.
Like his fellow lunarnauts—otherwise known as Moonies—living on Moon Base Alpha, twelve-year-old Dashiell Gibson is famous the world over for being one of the first humans to live on the moon.
And he’s bored out of his mind. Kids aren’t allowed on the lunar surface, meaning they’re trapped inside the tiny moon base with next to nothing to occupy their time—and the only other kid Dash’s age spends all his time hooked into virtual reality games.
Then Moon Base Alpha’s top scientist turns up dead. Dash senses there’s foul play afoot, but no one believes him. Everyone agrees Dr. Holtz went onto the lunar surface without his helmet properly affixed, simple as that. But Dr. Holtz was on the verge of an important new discovery, Dash finds out, and it’s a secret that could change everything for the Moonies—a secret someone just might kill to keep…
Life on Moon Base Alpha isn’t exactly out of this world. Especially when it comes to middle of the night trips to the communal bathroom. Dashiell Gibson begins his telling of this lunar whodunnit by explaining the ins and outs of lunar living. Though, to be clear, aside from the honor of a place in the history books, Dash mostly covers the remarkably unglamorous downsides of being one of earth’s first “moonies” — bad food, the substitution of recycled urine for water, and the challenges presented by every day tasks like going to the bathroom. And it’s precisely there where the whole mystery unfolds.
You see, it’s while Dash is in the bathroom that everything gets crazy. First, he breaks the toilet. Then, he overhears Dr. Holtz’s phone conversation as the scientist is bubbling over with enthusiasm about a discovery that he plans to share with residents of the base in the morning. Only the new day holds a different kind of surprise — Dr. Holtz has died. And Dash is convinced that he’s been murdered!
If you’ve read Stuart Gibb’s FunJungle series, Space Case will feel familiar. As FunJungle series opener, Belly Up places a young man (Teddy Fitzroy) in an unusual setting (living on the zoo/theme park grounds), so Space Case sees its hero on the moon. In each novel, there is a mysterious death whose investigation serves as our young protagonist’s respite from the usual doldrums of his day-to-day existence. Despite a small cast of characters, the suspect list becomes fairly long and complicated. Dash befriends new moonie, Kira, who becomes his partner-in-crime-solving.
Need-to-know facts about life in space, and more specifically, life on Moon Base Alpha are imparted through excerpted portions of The Official Residents’ Guide to Moon Base Alpha rather than related through Dash’s mouth, helping to keep his voice more securely that of a twelve-year-old. That said, there are still times when Dash sounds older than his years — most notably apparent to me when he says, “I managed not to evacuate my bladder” rather than something more typical pre-teen boy like, “It’s a miracle I didn’t pee my pants.” The occasional slippages out of convincing kid-speak are minor quibbles though, when one considers that Space Case is, on the whole, a smart, expertly-plotted, well-paced mystery with just the right amount of facts and humor mixed in to keep things fun and interesting. If that’s not enough, Gibbs throws in a stellar action sequence that takes place on the lunar surface, and an “I totally didn’t see that coming!” reveal when we find the nature of Dr. Holtz’s discovery. Indeed, when it’s time to return to Moon Base Alpha for the next voyage, be sure you don’t miss the shuttle!
— Dawn Teresa
4 of 5 Hearts. Marvelous Murder Mystery on the Moon.
Dashiell “Dash” Gibson cracks his first “space case” when he solves a murder on the moon. Space Case is a strong start to yet another middle grade series for Stuart Gibbs. Among Gibbs’ now three series — FunJungle, Spy School, and Moon Base Alpha — kids who crave mystery and suspense are sure to satisfy their appetites. Very likely, they’ll enjoy the variety afforded by reading all three!
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Simon & Schuster and Edelweiss for allowing me access to the title. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”