CM . . .
. Volume XXII Number 21. . . .February 5, 2016
The Dead Man’s Boot.
Toronto, ON: Dancing Cat Books/Cormorant Books, 2015.
179 pp., trade pbk. & html, $12.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-77086-444-3 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-77086-445-0 (html).
Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.
Review by Kay Weisman.
At the front door, Will got a feeling he was being watched. He looked down the lane to the highway but it was too dark to see anything but the big rocks flanking the driveway.
He had just opened the fridge to get a snack when the phone rang “Hello,” he answered with the phone wedged between his shoulder and his ear, trying to pull the plastic wrap off a piece of apple crisp his granny had left him.
“You listen to me, boy, and listen good,” the voice was rough from smoke and whisky. “You better forget what you seen lately and not be talking to nobody ‘bout it.” Will could hear the man breathing, air scraping its way in and out of his nasal passages as if he was in the room with him. “You tell anybody what you seen,” continued the voice, “and that pretty cousin ‘o yours gonna get hurt som’pin bad. And that nice house of your granddaddy’s gonna come to a bad end. Just like his mailbox.”Click. The line went dead. Will’s hands were shaking. He put the plate down.
Boom! An orange flash filled the kitchen window. Will ran over and saw the mailbox had exploded and flown off the post, which now stood burning, like a flare warning of bad news ahead.
This sequel to The Phantom’s Gold finds 13-year-old Will staying with his Great Uncle Emmett and older cousin Harley while his grandparents travel to Toronto to visit Will’s widowed mother. Meanwhile, ominous things are occurring in their town of Lunenburg, NS: several leatherback turtles have washed up dead on the beach; some ship-wreckers have returned to the area from prison and seem to be up to their old tricks; the wealthy CEO of Delaney Energy has arrived to try and convince everyone to let him develop the local natural gas reserves; and two slick young men arrive in town driving a cinnamon Porsche convertible. Will becomes involved in this mayhem when he is shot at while guarding a deceased leatherback. Later he is arrested after he unknowingly transports stolen alcohol for the two Porche boys, and he is further frightened when the family mailbox is blown to bits (see above). It takes the help of his ghostly great grandfather, “The Real” McCoy, to successfully navigate this high-speed adventure and solve a couple of old mysteries in the process.
As in the earlier volume, Murphy attempts to deal with too many issues—grief, complicated family dynamics, Asperger’s syndrome, competitive baseball, sailing, the lobster industry, fracking, endangered species, and ghostly premonitions, just to name a few — resulting in a story in which the reader must often be force fed background information in order for the story to make sense. Still, Will is an appealing character (when he isn’t being naïve about the Porche owners’ intentions) and his developing friendship with Colby, a local boy who has Asperger’s, is a welcome addition to this story. Recommend to fans of the first book as well as those looking for Atlantic Canada high adventure.
Kay Weisman works as a youth services librarian at West Vancouver Memorial Library and chairs the Children’s Literature Roundtables of Canada’s Information Book Award.
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