________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 25. . . .March 4, 2016


Trial By Fire. (A Riley Donovan Mystery).

Norah McClintock.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2016.
231 pp., pbk., pdf & epub., $10.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-0936-9 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0938-3 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-0937-6 (epub).

Grades 7-10 / Ages 12-15.

Review by Chris Laurie.

**** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



“You seem to know your way around a farm,” I said to Aram. “Maybe you could run the place for him.”

He shook his head. “Despite what my father thinks, I’m happy in my work.”

“Your father doesn’t like what you do?”

It makes him afraid. We can’t even talk about it.”

“What do you do?” Ashleigh asked.

“I work for a relief agency in Afghanistan. My father thinks I’m wasting my time and that something bad will happen to me. I was taken hostage once a few years ago by some extremists. I managed to negotiate my way out of it. It helped that I speak Pashtu. But my father was furious. He demanded I return home.” He shook his head. “My father thinks I should help only myself. He thinks everyone should help themselves and then all the problems in the world would be solved.”


McClintock’s latest entry in the “Riley Donovan” mystery series doesn’t skip a beat. While still unpacking from her move to a small town, Riley sees a fire at her next door neighbour’s barn. After calling 911, she runs to the barn to discover that kind old Mr. Goran is trapped inside and screaming for help. As Riley struggles to get the latch open something explodes, blowing her clear and knocking her unconscious. She awakens just as fire fighters have gained entry to the barn and are rushing the gravely injured man to hospital.

     The town’s scornful response to the tragedy and suggestions that Goran set his own barn on fire both outrages Riley and piques her curiosity. Why are people quick to suggest Mr. Goran was trying to burn down his own barn for insurance when he was locked inside it? Why is practically everyone in town against him? Is it racism against the immigrant from Kurdistan, or something else? Those readers who have enjoyed previous Riley Donovan mysteries will know that Riley hates injustice. While her aunt is a new detective at the town’s police department and bound by its rules and procedures, Riley is not. As she embarks on her own investigation, she makes powerful enemies.

     This tightly plotted page-turner is another solid entry in the series. Riley Donovan is a strong-minded, sensible and personable teen with whom readers will identify and cheer on. Friendships are forged along the way including what might become a romance. But this is not just a light mystery; McClintock expertly lays bare the small-mindedness and insularity of many of the town’s residents.

     Born and raised in Montreal, Norah McClintock has written more than 60 books. She specialises in young adult crime fiction and is a five-time winner of Crime Writers of Canada’s Arthur Ellis Award. She has written several series, including the “Chloe and Levesque”, “Mike and Riel”, “Robyn Hunter”, and “Ryan Dooley” books. She has also written a graphic novel, I Witness that was illustrated by Mike Deas.

Highly Recommended.

Chris Laurie is an Outreach Librarian at Winnipeg Public Library.

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

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