________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 16 . . . . April 15, 2005


Quid Pro Quo.

Vicki Grant.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2005.
168 pp., pbk. & cl., $8.95 (pbk.), $19.95 (cl.).
ISBN 1-55143-370-2 (pbk.), ISBN 1-55143-394-X (cl.).

Grades 5-7 / Ages 10-12.

Review by Kristin Butcher.

*** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.


Bob Chisling wasn’t shy, that’s for sure. I punched his name into Google and I got about three hundred references. He was on every charity organization that would have him. He particularly loved diseases. Cancer, MS, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, after a while, I got so I wouldn’t have been surprised to see him raising money for The Acne Break-out Prevention Society or The Chronic Jock Itch All-Star Scratch-a-thon.

On August 20 – believe it or not – when he could have been in dear old Halifax enjoying the gala birthday celebrations of Cyril F. MacIntyre, Chisling was in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. There was a picture of him coming first in a celebrity bike race in support of, get this, halitosis research. (Halitosis: in other words, bad breath. Like that needs research. Have these guys never heard of Tic-Tacs?).

Cyril F. MacIntyre is thirteen-years-old. His mother is twenty-eight. She was a street kid who found herself pregnant at fourteen. But she kept her baby, and, through sheer bull-headed determination, she managed to complete school and even get her law degree. For want of money to pay for sitters, she dragged Cyril along to her classes. He even helped her study for exams and complete her assignments. So it isn’t a big surprise that Cyril has a better than average understanding of the law. It’s a good thing too, because when his mother gets kidnaped, Cyril has to use everything he’s learned in order to find and rescue her.

     Quid pro quo is a fun read. Though there is a mystery to be solved and a looming threat of danger, the reader is never really concerned about the story’s outcome. In this novel, it isn’t the destination that is important, but the trip, and Cyril makes a most entertaining tour guide. His relationship with his mother, Andy, is unusual to say the least. Sometimes it is difficult to say which of the two is doing the parenting, but the fact that mother and son care deeply for one another is never in doubt. Andy is firecracker, and it is her short fuse that gets her in trouble. But she is also very bright, and she leaves a trail of clues for Cyril, confident that his own smarts will allow him to figure them out – which he does.

     Of course, there is a supporting cast of equally bizarre characters to round out the mix: Byron, the one-armed blackmailer from Andy’s past, Consuela, the Spanish-speaking maid with a secret, Atula, Andy’s shoot-from-the-hip boss, Bob Chisling, the unlikely bad guy, and Kendall, the skate-boarding ladies’ man who Cyril aspires to emulate.

     The novel is constructed around Cyril’s knowledge of the law, and each chapter title is a legal term referring to the contents of that chapter [eg. – chapter nine “Alias” (Latin) A false name]. The plot works well, with just one exception. In the final scene, all the characters find themselves imprisoned in the men’s washroom of a ritzy yacht club, and the bad guy, who, if apprehended, could be charged with numerous felonies, including manslaughter and arson, is taking lunch orders while waving a gun around. The incident is amusing, but not very credible. It is reminiscent of the bumbling silliness associated with the movie Home Alone.

     As entertaining as the novel is, I question how many youngsters will actually read it. The title, though definitely appropriate to the story, isn’t exactly kid fodder, and the plain white cover with a black and white photograph of Cyril and Andy isn’t particularly eye-catching. (Editor’s note: This review was based on a prepublication copy, and the final cover art will be in colour.) But those who do venture inside are in for a treat.


Kristin Butcher lives in Victoria, BC, and writes for children.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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