________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 2 . . . . September 17, 2004

cover Chasing Shadows. (A Shelby Belgarden Mystery).

Valerie Sherrard.
Toronto, ON: Boardwalk Book/Dundurn Press, 2004.
211 pp., pbk., $12.99.
ISBN 1-55002-502-3.

Subject Headings:
Missing person-Juvenile fiction.
Restaurants-Juvenile fiction.
Detective and mystery stories.

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.

Review by Joanne Peters.

***1/2 /4


Mom glanced up from the sheets of paper that were spread over the kitchen table. They were covered with lists - mostly of food items - and she added to them as new ideas came to her.

"What colours of balloons will we have?"

"None. I don't want any balloons."

It's funny how Mom can manage to summon the most forlorn looks over such trivial things. She got this pathetic hangdog expression on her face, as though I'd just announced I was quitting school and joining a terrorist group.

Let her overreact, I thought, I'm holding my ground. After all, it's my birthday. And Mom gets completely out of control with balloons. The last time I had a party she must have blown up hundreds of them. They were everywhere, hanging from the ceilings and doorways, stuck to furniture. The house looked like it was decorated for a small child's party. It was totally embarrassing....

Shelby Belgarden is about to turn sixteen. On the whole, life is good, and, if her mother insists on attempting to embarrass her with balloons at her sixteenth birthday party, well, who says that life has to be perfect? Mystery-solving seems to be on hold (for details, read Out of the Ashes and In Too Deep, the first two works in this ongoing series), and between the roller-coaster relationship crises of her best friend, Bette, and her relationship with Greg Taylor, (the boyfriend that all sixteen year-olds want, but few have), Shelby has quite enough romance in her life. If that weren't enough to keep her busy, a job at a new restaurant in town, The Steak Place, provides that all-important first job, even if it's only as a "kitchen helper."

     However, her co-workers at The Steak Place are somewhat unusual: Lisa, the manager, is unbelievably cold to her; Ben, the chef, is charming to Shelby but dismissive of Lisa, and Carlotta, the second cook, is rude to almost everyone. However, Nadine Gardiner, one of the waitresses, becomes a new friend, and, when she suddenly goes missing, Shelby is more than a bit concerned. After all, she and her friends had just finished painting Nadine's new apartment, and Nadine did not seem the type to just disappear. She knows that Nadine had just broken up with Leo, her body-building boyfriend who is continually on her case "about something all the time. . . . All Leo wants to do is work out and admire his muscles." (p. 38). And, at first, he seems like the prime suspect.

     But, Shelby can't leave a good mystery alone, despite her boyfriend's annoyance and a more than vaguely sinister dimension to the whole situation. Soon, it seems as if Nadine is in serious danger, something is definitely strange about her co-workers at The Steak Place, and it is up to Shelby to sort out the link between clanking water pipes at the restaurant, orange and peach bathroom fresheners, and an old Julie Andrews movie.

     I enjoyed Chasing Shadows, although not as much as Out of the Ashes and In Too Deep. Shelby's boyfriend, Greg Taylor, is wonderful, and their relationship is early high-school cute (lots of compliments, a bit of smoochy stuff, but nothing too hot), but I felt that Greg was interfering a bit too much in Shelby's detective work. Then again, younger readers might be more interested in the development of their relationship than is someone old enough to be Shelby's mother!

     Still, by the final chapters, Valerie Sherrard does an amazing job of pulling together all the seemingly unrelated and tangled ends of the plot, and in the tradition of great mystery writers, leaves us with a cliff-hanger. Just what is Shelby's friend, Betts, so upset about? Shelby is certain that "whatever it is, at least it won't involve some sort of mystery. That just goes to show how wrong I can be." I suppose we'll have to wait for the fourth Shelby Belgarden mystery in order to find out. Definitely recommended!

Highly Recommended.

Joanne Peters is a teacher-librarian at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, MB.


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

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