Case Closed? by Susan Hughes

Case Closed? Nine Mysteries Unlocked by Modern Science
by Susan Hughes, illustrated by Michael Wandelmaier

(Suggested reading level: Grades 4-6)

Amber (10) is a big fan of non-fiction, but they can sometimes be hard to find for her age range. This one she really enjoyed. We read it aloud over three evenings, and all the mysteries were interesting.I have to say that she was a little leery of reading it at first. I think she thought it was going to be boring, but after the first page of the first case, the story of a female pharaoh in ancient Egypt, she was hooked.

The nine “mysteries” range from in time period from the ancient world to the 1970s. The include a city that disappeared into the desert, several explorations that were never heard from again, and the story of Princess Anastasia.

“Using both traditional search methods and modern technology, researchers around the globe are now shedding new light on old mysteries. In these pages, you’ll meet the dedicated sleuths from different fields who have been seeking answers to nine disappearance, both ancient and recent. find out which tools and techniques have been most important to each case and why.” (pg. 4)

Each case is set up in the same way. I’ll the section on The Anasazi as an example, since that was one of Amber’s favorites. It starts with an introduction telling about the modern investigator who has become interested in the case. The next section gives the background, the original story.  The Anasazi had been a thriving community in the southwest US, but around 1300 CE they left their homes and vanished. The mystery is where did they go.

Then comes the investigation. In this case, archeologists studies the remains found in the area. Researchers also turned to dendrochronolgy to learn about the precipitation then. That was a new word for me. As the book explains, it’s the study and dating of tree rings. Archeologists, a social scientist and a computer modeler then all worked together to create a computer simulation program that duplicated as much as possible the time period.

The final section is each case is a wrap up. The Anasazi apparently merged with other peoples , but the question is still open. “What combination of factors actually caused the Anasazi people to leave their homes?” (pg. 42)

Within the stories are clear, full color illustrations showing the different parts of the mystery, from the original people involved to the modern investigation. Photos and maps are also included. There’s a lot to look at and to learn.

Hughes has managed to make science and history fun and exciting.

Purchase at Amazon, IndieBound, or The Book Depository.

88 pages
Published August 1, 2010

4½ out of 5 stars

Challenge: 100+

I received my copy from the author for review and the above is my honest opinion.

6 Comments

  1. Patterns of burning indicate that many were exposed to flame while still covered with flesh which is what would be expected after cooking over a fire. Patricia Lambert of Utah State University and Brian Billman and Banks Leonard of Soil Systems the contract archaeology firm that excavated 5MT10010 propose that cannibalism was associated with violent conflict between Anasazi communities in the mid-1100s contemporary with a period of drought and the collapse of the Chaco system.

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