________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 8. . . October 27, 2017


The Snake Mistake Mystery. (The Great Mistake Mysteries, Book 3).

Sylvia McNicoll.
Toronto, ON: Dundurn, January, 2018.
221 pp., trade pbk., epub & PDF, $8.99 (pbk.), $7.99 (EPUB), $8.99 (PDF).
ISBN 978-1-4597-3973-4 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4597-3975-8 (epub), ISBN 978-1-4597-3974-1 (PDF).

Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.

Review by Mary Thomas.

*** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy


"The biggest mistake is mine. Mrs Irwin claims I left her door unlocked." Dad closes his eyes for a moment and sighs. "She fired me."

"Did you forget, Dad?" I push the slurpy Yorkie away from my face and pat it. Another Yorkie flips on its back for a belly rub.

"No, I don't think so. I'm almost positive I locked it. But the police say there was no sign of forced entry and the door was open."

"You jiggled the handle to make sure the key worked, like you showed me?" I pat one dog with one hand and rub another's belly with the other.

"Pretty sure I did." Dad's face looks red. "I can almost see myself doing it. ... Usually I talk to myself as I lock the door. Trick I learned in air traffic. That way, what you're doing becomes less mindless. You register that you're doing it. But I must have made a mistake."

"You tell me all the time that mistakes are good things. They help us discover amazing stuff. Is is only true for kids? Not for adults?" "No, I believe we're all meant to make mistakes. They teach us things."


If the phone rings in the middle of a violent thunderstorm and it's your mother calling to tell you her flight is delayed -- she's an airline attendant and this is a fairly common occurrence -- and to ask you to go to rescue a fellow worker's pet, do you:

(a) drop everything and go out into the storm to do as she asks?
(b) tell your father as soon as he comes in that this seems to be a new client for his dog-walking business?
(c) go over to the house after the thunder passes with your friend Renée to help the unknown pet?

     If you are Stephen the worrier, you take option (c), and it's only after finding a semi-defrosted mouse in an aquarium that is equipped with a heat lamp, then a pamphlet about ball pythons under a sofa cushion (the pet might have been a small one hiding from the storm), and no dog or cat anywhere, you reluctantly conclude that the pet is a snake that has apparently escaped not only from its aquarium but also from the house. And the freezer has silver jeweller's box in it -- which is empty!

     Now, if you, the reader, have read the other “Mistake Mysteries”, you'll know that Stephen is obsessed by mistakes, his own and other people's. By this point in the story, he's up to Mistake #7 for the day, and still counting. Day One finishes with 11 mistakes in all, and Day Three ends with "too many to count". But, in spite of these mistakes, Stephen once again manages to sort the mysteries (yes, this time there are several), and also once again save his dad's dog-walking -- to which has now been added cat-sitting -- business. After all, someone other than Noble Dog Walking must have known where the keys for the burgled houses were kept. There is also the side issue of keeping Renée's brother out of jail, apparently always a problem since he frequently seems to be acting suspiciously in the wrong place at the wrong time.

     This is a good series of books, gentle mysteries, not too scary, where the reader can sympathize with Stephen's anxieties without having to take them too seriously. The problems are indeed mysterious, and Stephen and Renée are ingenious in their ferreting out the solutions. One of the things I have liked about these books is that there is not an obvious suspect (other than Renée's brother who is innocent by default) who is gradually revealed as the story progresses. This one is not quite so obscure: Obviously, anyone who drives a panel truck too fast in a built-up area must be a/the villain! Proof is something else. however, and here Stephen's reasoning powers excel. Kids will enjoy The Snake Mistake Mystery, as did I.

     There is also a warning here: putting your spare house key "under the second pot from the door" is a Bad Idea. Renée says "most people keep a spare key within ten feet of the door". If this is common knowledge.


Mary Thomas lives in Winnipeg, MB, and likes mysteries in books, both YA and adult. Also her spare key is much better hidden than those in this book were (though still handy)!

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

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