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Linda Bailey
Toronto, Kids Can Press, 1992. 175pp, paper, $4.95
ISBN 1-550740944. (Stevie Diamond Detective series). CIP

Subject Headings:
Detective and mystery stories-Juvenile literature.
Robbery investigation-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-9 / Ages 9-14

Reviewed by B. Henley

Volume 20 Number 6
1992 November

Stevie Diamond, the narrator of this novel, is a girl who takes matters into her own hands. Almost single handedly she tries to solve a mystery and save her parents' marriage at the same time.

How Come the Best Clues Are Always in the Garbage? begins with Stevie's mother in tears. Money that belonged to the Garbage Busters, a grassroots environmental group she works for, has been stolen right off her kitchen table! Her mother's desperation, combined with Stevie's vivid imagination, sets the scene for Stevie's detective agency. Immediately she forms a list of possible suspects, and her search for the robber begins. Sleuthing involves late-night assignments and some pretty hair-raising experiences, but Stevie welcomes both.

As the Garbage Busters step up their campaign and start demonstrating outside the Fabulous Red Burger Barn, Stevie's mom begins to receive threats. First of all, garbage is pushed through her mail slot, and found in the guck are three plastic chicken heads from packaging at the Red Barn. Next, a threatening note appears!

While Stevie is working on deciphering the clues, one of them leads her to Jesse, a scrawny, excitable neighbourhood kid, who soon becomes her partner. Together they find themselves in some sticky situations--one, in a garbage dumpster, and another in the back of a van, which, to their horror, takes them outside the city limits.

While all of this is going on, Stevie is also trying desperately to prevent a relationship from forming between her mother and Jonathan, another member of Garbage Busters. Her father is in the Yukon working on his Masters degree, and Stevie worries that in his absence he is no match for Jonathan's fit body and dazzling smile. To top it all off, Stevie's schoolwork is suffering from the amount of time she is spending trying to set everything straight.

All's well that ends well, though, and this story ends, as one would guess, with Stevie saving the day.

How Come the Best Clues Are Always in the Garbage? is Linda Bailey's first mystery novel. From the captivating title to the very last page, it is fast paced and exciting. Having the unique personality of Stevie narrate the story makes it all the more interesting.. She is not only clever and daring, she also has a wacky sense of humour that will appeal to the reader.

The setting, a housing co-op, is an ideal place for the wide variety of characters who provide part of the back-drop for the plot. Many of them seem eccentric; all of them add interest to the story.

In addition to the theme of environmental concerns is one of appearance versus reality. Stevie's own father is a goofy-looking guy whose hair sticks up. He is in direct contrast to his "rival," Jonathan, who looks as if he just stepped out of a magazine. Yet it is soon apparent which one of them is a worthy character.

Another character, Gertie, appears to be weird at best a witch at worse, and yet she is not at all what she seems. Other characters also surprise Stevie in the end, and she learns a valuable lesson from this.

The only drawback of this delightful novel lies in young readers not realizing the potential danger of breaking into people's houses or vans. Certainly, in this case, both incidents were harmless; yet one must realize that this is fiction. The fact that Stevie gets away with daydreaming in class and not completing any homework, only to become the class celebrity, we can overlook. What student doesn't dream of such an escape?

How Come the Best Clues Are Always in the Garbage? is highly recommended for young readers, age nine to fourteen, most of whom will enjoy the fun and adventure that Stevie provides. We can only hope she finds another mystery to solve soon.

B. Henley is Head Librarian at Bradford Collegiate Institute and Vocational School in Brantford, Ontario
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