CM . . . . Volume XX Number 28 . . . . March 21, 2014
Andrea and her brother, Tony, are in Moose Jaw for the first time since their grandfather, Vance, died a few months ago. As family and friends gather to tell stories and reminisce about Vance, one of his oldest friends, Mr. Jenkins, asks Andrea if she will look for a notebook that Vance had left for him. Andrea wonders what the notebook contains and why her grandfather hadn't left it to her. She is surprised to find out that Mr. Jenkins not only knows about the tunnels that exist beneath them, tunnels that have transported them back in time, but he seems to know more about her grandfather's history with Ol' Scarface, the Chicago gangster, than they do. She hands over the notebook with a plea to be allowed to borrow it, only to be surprised when a bureau starts to move, opening a familiar tunnel. She and Tony find themselves once more in 1929, except this time their help is desperately needed when the now youthful form of her grandmother tells her that Vance is in Chicago and nobody has heard from him. The three set off to find him, unaware that he has been caught up with gangsters, and so, too, will they be. The brother and sister will need to work together and get the help of some friends if they are to find their way to Moose Jaw, and to their own time, again.
It is a prerequisite when reading time slip fantasy that a reader have a healthy suspension of disbelief. This is more successful when the modern characters use their modern memorabilia and knowledge of the past to convince their relatives, now the same age as themselves, of their relationship and the dangers that they are all facing, but can strain credulity when the very differences become critical plot points. Such an item is Tony's "tiny insulin bottle," which he drops into an elevator shaft and becomes separated from for quite a length of time, at a time in history seemingly before the discovery of diabetes, although Banting and Best made it available in the U.S. shortly after 1921, and Tony ends up in the hospital with a doctor who is unaware of his treatment and without Tony's showing any ill effects. The use of "Ol' Scarface", a misnomer for Al Capone, who has been tied to the St. Valentines Massacre in Chicago, is not entirely successful but may capture the attention of readers interested in mobsters. The story is introduced with a prologue that shows Vance being held by Ol' Scarface and introduces a connection to Moose Jaw which, although tenuous, provides enough information for readers unfamiliar with the series. Next Stop - Chicago is not likely to be a book that will reach an audience beyond fans of historical fiction and time slip fantasy, although those readers will find a story that fleshes out the main characters and finds Andrea learning more about her grandfather and herself.
Recommended with reservations.
Betsy Fraser is a librarian with Calgary Public Library.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.