CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 35. . . May 19, 2017
On the radio recently, I heard an interview with a woman who used animal therapy to help kids cope with their anxieties. Stephen is one of those kids Anxious with a capital A and he, too, has coping strategies, some of which involve animals. This isn't too surprising since his father, who recently retired from his job as an air traffic controller because of the high stress levels, has opened a dog walking business. They also both knit, though Stephen's stitches are always 'way too tight, whereas his father is prepared to take on knitting a set of five jackets for his five Yorkshire terrier clients.
Stephen has two other methods of coping. The first of these is to regard each day as a series of mistakes, mostly his, punctuating his existence. Perhaps it is lucky that each of the books covers only three days plus an aftermath! Over the two books (and, therefore, six days), there are an average of ten mistakes per day. Stephen's other coping mechanism, one which his father does not share, is taking careful note of everything that is happening around him at all times. Things that would not usually be considered significant, he sees, correlates, and manages to turn into coherent case facts that initially seemed random. In The Best Mistake Mystery, for example, he sees how the driverless orange VW managed to crash into the school and why the new principal had her house festooned with toilet paper. In The Artsy Mistake Mystery, it's who was taking bits from the public art displays exhibited around town, and why. In both books, Stephen's reasoning manages to get the brother of his new friend and dog walking assistant, Renée, off the hook, and keep him out of jail.
These mysteries are fun, in spite of their “Anxious” moments. Who hasn't occasionally been looking after something dog, cat, child and had it disappear for a moment, five minutes, an hour? Who hasn't done something perhaps just a bit foolish and gotten away with it? Or not gotten away with it? Our sympathies are definitely with Stephen in these moments, but we tend to get a bit blown away by the intelligence with which he manages to sort out clues that we may not even have recognized as such. McNicoll has written a lot of good books; these two are another pair for that list, and I eagerly await the third. What dreadful thing can Attila (Renée's brother) be suspected of next that he could all too plausibly have done? But (of course!) hasn't.
I have one small quibble, and it is not with the books, but with the covers. Both are diagrammatic maps covering different quadrants of the town, one east and one south east of the school. However, where they overlap, at the school, the streets do not correspond! It's enough to give the reader an Anxious Moment.
To be continued in book three of “The Great Mistake Mysteries”.
Mary Thomas lives, and works occasionally, in Winnipeg, MB, and loves a good mystery novel.
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