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Linda Bailey
Toronto, Kids Can Press, 1993.157pp, paper, $4.95
ISBN 1-55074172-1. (Stevie Diamond Mystery). CIP

Subject Headings:
Wilderness areas-Fiction.
Mystery and detective stories.

Reviewed by Marion Scott

Volume 22 Number 2
1994 March/April

Pre-teen sleuths Stevie and Jesse test their detection skills once again in this fast-paced mystery. This second adventure takes them to Stevie's dad's tree planting camp in northern British Columbia for a much-anticipated vacation. But much to Stevie's chagrin, they find they are expected to babysit five-year-old Alexander, the camp cooks son.

Stevie's mood improves somewhat when she finds that Alexander and his mom are linked to a mystery. Some time previously, they had rented their house to a stranger whom they never met--a stranger who turned out to be Rubberface Ragnall, an international crook and master of disguise. Now it appears that Ragnall planted something among their possessions, and has followed them to the camp to retrieve it. One of the workers, Stevie figures, is Ragnall. But who? A colourful cast of characters keeps both the young detectives--and the reader --guessing.

If the plot seems improbable, it is certainly no more so than in any novel of this genre, and the suspenseful, well-paced writing quickly draws the reader into the action. Nor is the outcome totally predictable. In the process of reaching a solution, Stevie and Jesse make several embarrassing miscalculations. One almost blows the case. When a resolution is reached, it is satisfying and unforced.

The real highlight, however, is the characterization. Stevie is realistic and appealing as the spunky, independent heroine. Easy-going Jesse makes a good foil. And Alexander is a classic rambunctious--at times trying--five-year-old. The sparring among the three is often amusing, and the dialogue realistic and snappy.

This is Bailey's second novel for children. (Her first How Come the Best Clues Are Always in the Garbage?, introduced Stevie and Jesse.)

How Can I Be a Detective is both entertaining and attractively packaged, and is sure to please young mystery readers. I would recommend his title for school and public library collections.

Grades 4 to 6 / Ages 9 to 11

Marion Scott is a children's librarian with the Toronto Public Library in Toronto, Ontario

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