________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 12. . . November 24, 2017


Deer Island Mystery.

Don Kelly.
Riverview, NB: Chocolate River Publishing, 2017.
117 pp., trade pbk., $11.95.
ISBN 978-0-9877470-9-9.

Grades 5-7 / Ages 10-12.

Review by Libby McKeever.

*** /4


Ian was already on his knees, pulling back leaves and black earth with his fingers, but Jamie had a better idea. He checked the position of the signal again and stuck a twig into the soft, moist earth to mark the mystery object’s position. From his pocket, he removed his Swiss Army knife and opened the larger blade. Carefully he cut a circular disc of earth around the twig and tipped the blade backwards to pry out a hockey-puck sized plug of soil from the hole. Both of them saw a bright circular flash of yellow metal in the bottom of the hole.

It’s a ring-a gold ring!” yelled Ian as he rammed his hand into the hole, picking the object from its tomb of compacted humus.

It was a large ring, and it certainly looked like it was made of gold. Jamie used his thumb to push out the dirt that was embedded in it. A plug of black earth fell out and revealed the shiny inner wall of the ring. Both boys noticed it at the same time that the entire inside surface of the ring was engraved with writing.


When Jamie’s teacher assigns the class a heritage project and his friend Jenny tells him about a mystery surrounding Captain Nehemiah Butler, Jamie knows he’s found his topic. Captain Butler, a wealthy seaman, retired to Deer Island, a small community off the coast of New Brunswick over one hundred years ago. The mystery arises when the Captain appears to have died penniless and the friends discover that the inscription on his grave reads, “Gone but not forgotten – the game is afoot.”

     With the help of his friends Jenny and Ian, Jamie begins to dig further into the seaman’s life and the mystery of his so-called missing treasure. During a visit to Old Hilda, the island’s ‘witch’, the three discover that Hilda is actually Captain Butler’s granddaughter. While they are looking at her family Bible together, an old yellowed page that is completely covered with little “flagmen” falls out. Soon the three are thrown into deciphering the semaphore code, another link to the ‘game’ referred to on the Captain’s grave stone. Using their orienteering skills, the three friends become much closer to solving the puzzle when they unearth the Captain’s ring, but, when their school rivals, Frank and Dana, steal the ring, the stakes and tensions rise as they race to find the elusive treasure and finally solve the mystery.

     Author Don Kelly’s interests in geology, astronomy and orienteering feature as strong themes as Jamie and his friends work together to uncover the mystery. Readers will enjoy unravelling all the clues in Deer Island Mystery, but they will need to pay attention to the details and the scientific references to be able to fully enjoy this page-turning tale. The addition of the two school rivals and the fact that Ian used to be a friend of theirs serves raises the tension and calls into question loyalities, thereby making the story more exciting.


Libby McKeever is a retired Youth Services Librarian from Whistler, BC.

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

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