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James Heneghan
Richmond Hill (Ont.), Scholastic Canada,
1993. 128pp, paper, $4.25, ISBN 0-590-74514-X. CIP

Grades 3-5 / Ages 8-10

Reviewed by Dave Jenkinson

Volume 22 Number 3
1994 May/June

Readers originally met the three juvenile members of the O'Brien Detective Agency in  The Case of the Marmalade Cat as Vancouverite Clarice "Chief" O'Brien was founding her backyard sleuthing firm "devoted to Fighting Crime and Solving Mysteries" and enlisted friend Sadie Stewart, a.k.a. Number Two, and newcomer Leopold "Brick" Chumley-Smythe, a.k.a. Number Three, as her detective staff.

In the same way that the agency's first case involved finding a missing object, a cat, and was set around a festival, Hallowe'en, so  The Trail of the Chocolate Thief involves locating numerous missing items, all toys, and occurs just prior to another festive occasion, Christmas.

Temporarily joining the trio is Clarice's visiting seven-year-old cousin, Moonflower, who is initially seen as a nuisance but who later proves her worth. As the title suggests, the young detectives trail the thief using Robin Hood Milk Chocolate bar wrappers, which are found at the scene of each toy theft, as clues. Again Clarice's "Sixth Sense Hunches" combine with Sadie's "Superior Reasoning Powers" to solve the case and reveal the thief to be a modern-day juvenile R[ebecca] Hood, who has been taking toys from the "rich" to give to the poor at Christmas.

While  The Trail of the Chocolate Thief can stand alone, readers familiar with  The Case of the Mamalade Cat, might better understand the relationships among the characters, especially Number Two's sarcastic comments directed at the Chief, and will more fully appreciate the children's run-in with Dolly Varden and her cat Ginger.

A good, readable introduction to more sophisticated juvenile mysteries.


Dave Jenkinson teaches courses in children's and adolescent literature in the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba, in Winnipeg, Manitoba

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