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Ann Aveling
Toronto, Scholastic Canada, 1994. 136pp, paper, $4.50
ISBN 0-590-74598-0. CIP

Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11

Reviewed by Norma Charles

Volume 22 Number 5
1994 October

In Ann Aveling's first book for children, she tells the story of Hunter Watson, who has quite a reputation as a detective. A full-blown case arrives at school one day in the form of vandalized bicycles. His classmates are soon convinced that the culprit is a new arrival, Jeremy Diskau. But Hunter believes Jeremy when he pleads his innocence. Hunter sets an elaborate trap to catch the culprit. However, he is devastated when the trap seems to reveal that the culprit is one of his best friends.

Most of the action of this mystery is set in the public school grounds and in a grade 5 classroom with an unusually crabby and inconsistent teacher. The narrative is fast-paced and the dialogue between the many characters rings true. Readers will be drawn into the action once they are able to sort out the many characters.

The story contains the main elements of a good mystery except, perhaps, motive. The real reason for such wanton vandalism of private property is never fully explained. It seems to by lightly dismissed as jealousy, as in "My parents are too cheap to buy me a better bike, so I'll wreck yours." As well, there is a disturbing lack of repentance or retribution. At the end, the culprit is spirited away to another school for "problem kids" without having to face up to his crimes, to pay for them in any way, or even to apolo-gize to his victims. The reader is left with the feeling, "Oh, well. The insurance will pay so it really doesn't matter."

In spite of these reservations, I would recommend this title for purchase for recreational reading.

Norma Charles is a teacher-librarian at Henderson Annex in Vancouver, British Columbia

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