________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 3 . . . . October 1, 2004


Death Down Under. (The Screech Owl Series, No. 15).

Roy MacGregor.
Toronto, ON: McClelland & Stewart, 2001.
124 pp., pbk., $5.99.
ISBN 0-7710-5644-3.

Subject Headings:
Hockey stories.
Sea horses-Juvenile fiction.
Detective and mystery stories.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Liz Greenaway.



Wiz stickhandled so loosely he might have been the only person on the ice. He looked up, smiling. Travis tried to scramble back, but Sam had too good an angle on him and was too strong for him to break away.

Wiz did his little scoop move, and instantly the puck was lying on his stick blade as if he were about to hand it to the referee.

Is he quitting? Travis wondered. Did the horn blow?

But he wasn't quitting. With the puck still balanced perfectly on his blade, Wiz skated out from behind the net, looped the stick in a fake that sent Jeremy over flat on his back, and then tossed rather than shot the puck high in under the crossbar.

Muck's whistle and the horn blew at exactly the same time.

The Sharks -- and the Owls who were temporarily Sharks -- mobbed Wiz, who was laughing at what he'd done.

"No fair!" Jeremy was shouting to Muck and slamming his stick on the ice at the same time. "That's illegal."

Muck just shook his head, grinning.

"Never seen a goal like it," he said. "But there's nothing in the rule books to say you can't do it."


Death Down Under is number 15 in the Screech Owl series by Roy MacGregor. As the title suggests, the Screech Owls are in Australia this time for an exhibition tournament to promote ice hockey down under. The book is filled with lots of interesting differences and similarities between Australia and Canada -- such as the fact that a city the size of Sydney has only one ice arena, instead of the dozens a city of its size would have in Canada.

     If the locale is different, readers will find much that is familiar in the characterization and banter between team members at least: Nish is still a show off, eager to get the better of his rival, Sam. There is all the usual banter on and off the ice.

     However, a grisly discovery during the team's visit to the Sydney Aquarium might put off younger or more sensitive readers. The team is allowed to view a Great White Shark recently entangled in fishermen's nets off the coast of Sydney. While the Screech Owls are viewing the shark, the shark belches -- revealing bubbles and a human head.

     A dangerous encounter while snorkelling around a reef days later leads the team to connect the death to the poaching of precious sea dragons that has been going on.

     In the end, it is the team's quick work -- with the help of their host family -- that leads to the solved mystery and an arrest.

     The novel is suspenseful and seamless in its travelling between ice time, as the Screech Owls have to work to defend Canada's reputation against the skillful Aussies, and the mystery taking place in the reef.

     Again, MacGregor has written an interesting and entertaining novel that speaks to why this series is still going strong now with 18 novels and an upcoming tv show.

     Interested readers will find additional information on the team, the books, and hockey at www.screechowls.com. The web site also allows readers to write to Roy MacGregor.

     A terrific series for readers of all ages and genders -- with the noted caveat that librarians and teachers be aware of the slightly more morbid note of this title before recommending it to unsuspecting readers.

Highly Recommended.

Liz Greenaway has worked in publishing and now resides in Edmonton, AB.

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

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.