CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 23. . . February 24, 2017
The common comparison that the plot of a book can seem like an amusement park ride came to mind more than once when I was reading Melanie Jackson’s story of star baseball pitcher Zeke Sheldon but in the very best way; you are on a lightning fast ride that you are enjoying, you might find it a little scarier than you prefer, but you are confident that you will find a safe landing at the end.
Death Drop is set during the summer holidays, and Zeke has come early to the amusement park to see why everyone is talking about the sensational elevator-style ride, one based on the legend of Hades and Persephone, which has come to Vancouver. It is conveniently located across the road from the park where Zeke’s baseball team practices, and he has just enough time to try it once before the coach starts to count heads. Zeke doesn’t anticipate that he will find himself involved in a mystery surrounding a lost little girl, and, as the story progresses, he gains a sidekick in the form of a younger, bookish classmate, named Dieter, who is also visiting the ride so that he can do some research for his summer business camp. As the search for the girl turns into more of an all-day mystery and causes Zeke to miss his baseball practice, he looks to Dieter for ideas, and their banter adds humour and a sense of reality to the book.
Zeke and Dieter attend the same school, and Dieter has tried to make himself a part of the baseball team without much success. He doesn’t have the same kind of athletic ability that Zeke and his teammates have, but he certainly makes up for this in his academic skills as he explains to anyone who will listen why the amusement park chose to bring this particular ride to their city, why it is based on the legend of Persephone, the history of a famous painting housed at the base of the ride, and how pomegranates feature prominently in the marketing. Zeke is a likable character from the start when he shows up early for practice so that he can fit in the extra time to take a ride at the park, tries to help rescue a missing girl, and, as his alliance with Dieter develops, it’s impossible not to root for him even more.
The mystery surrounding the little girl’s disappearance starts to last a little longer than Zeke would like as he tries to question several staff members at the ride and doesn’t find their answers to be satisfactory. Just as Zeke starts to lose patience, there is a development in that side of the story that leads to a twist in a whole other direction. Zeke’s perseverance and instincts pay off, but there are some tense moments where it seems as if both Zeke and Dieter are in real danger from the criminals at the heart of the mystery, and the final chapter gives a truly satisfying ending.
Although the entire book takes place inside or around a single thrill ride in Vancouver in one long day, it certainly seems as if Zeke and Dieter are together for much longer, and their journey takes them further afield. Their friendship is tightly forged through this day where they save a little girl, wrestle with some greedy criminals and prevent a precious artwork from being stolen. Death Drop reads a lot like a good buddy movie with a teen audience in mind - an enjoyable read.
Penny McGill is a library assistant in the Collections Department of the Waterloo Public Library in Waterloo, ON.
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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.