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Marion Woodson
Victoria (B.C.), Orca Book Publishers, 1994. 176pp, paper, $6.96
ISBN 1-55143-011-8. CIP

Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13

Reviewed by Dave Jenkinson

Volume 22 Number 5
1994 October

August on B.C.'s Gabriola Island is filled with mystery, adventure and romance for fourteen-year-old Nick Price as his conservation-minded mother, Patricia, leads an attempt to prevent McKeghnie Logging from felling the island's trees. Anonymous acts of vandalism against the loggers and their equipment are paralleled by increasingly threatening actions directed towards Nick's mother. When Nick decides to become an amateur sleuth and discover the identity of the person committing the various menacing deeds, he is joined by a most unlikely ally, Allison McKeghnie, daughter of the logging company's owner.

Because the list of obvious suspects is limited to just two people - Thomas Turner, an author of murder mysteries, and Max, a ferry worker - Woodson has to fill some pages before the real villainšs identity can finally be revealed. The gradual development of the romance between Nick and Allison delays the book's climax, as does the introduction of an Achuara Indian medicine stick, a gift from Nick's father, who is working in Brazil's Amazon rain forests. Because the stick can supposedly identify criminals and make them confess, the teen detectives attempt to exploit the stick's magic; however, as the medicine stick can also reputedly induce fatal illness, Nick fears its presence might be causing his mother's mysterious sickness.

While the plot-delaying device of the romance is most credible, the "amazon influence" in the form of the magic stick seems contrived and artificial.

An optional purchase for collections needing additional juvenile mysteries.

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

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