CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 11 . . . .January 19, 2007
Something Suspicious in Saskatchewan.
Dayle Campbell Gaetz.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2006.
195 pp., pbk., $8.95.
Farm life-Juvenile fiction.
Detective and mystery stories.
Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.
Review by Deborah Mervold.
Kate studied the shed in front of her. Roughly the size of a one-car garage, it was built of wide vertical planks painted white.
Rusty stopped beside her. "What's up?"
"We need to check out the equipment shed."
"Who says this is the equipment shed?"
"As if you know."
Katie rolled her eyes. "I saw Cliff turn this way." She nodded toward the other, almost identical shed, more than thirty feet away. "And he didn't have time to go to that one and back."
She pulled the door open. It creaked on rusty hinges as Katie stepped from dazzling sunlight into the shed's dim light.
Rusty stopped in the doorway. "What are we looking for?"
"Can't you guess?"
"Not a clue."
"Actually, that's exactly what we're here for."
"What? A clue? To what?"
"To who left that wire out in the field. I can't believe it was an accident, because who would be so stupid?"
"Oh, I don't know . . . Megan comes to mind. That girl is totally out of it."
"Cliff thinks it was Scott."
Katie and Rusty are cousins who are traveling from Victoria with their grandparents to spend some time on their Aunt Margaret's farm in Saskatchewan near Humboldt. Katie sees herself as a detective and has solved crimes in the past. She shares her birth date with her cousin, Megan, who lives on the farm with her mother now that her father, Al, has recently passed away. They have arrived at the farm just before the girls' birthday when Katie will be twelve and Megan seventeen.
Things are not what they expect on their arrival. A biotech company has moved into the area and plans to take over some of the land. Someone is sabotaging things on Aunt Margaret's farm. Equipment has gone missing and is left in places where damage can be done to people and the farm. There has been a suspicious fire. Megan is morose and depressed. Her boyfriend, Scott, was helping on the farm but was dismissed after he was caught stealing. Megan is so unsure of herself that she wonders if she is to blame for what is happening. Cliff is the hired hand who wants to buy the farm as soon as he is able. Cliff is determined to break up any friendship between Megan and Scott. Although Katie doesn't like Megan, she is shocked at the changes in Megan that have occurred in the last two years since Megan had visited with Katie and her family in Victoria. Now Katie overhears a phone call where someone is threatening Aunt Margaret.
Katie and Rusty decide that they will solve the mystery and help Aunt Margaret save the farm. Is Scott to blame? Is he so angry about being fired that he is the one sabotaging the farm? He looks guilty because his truck has been seen at suspicious times and places. Is Megan to blame? Her cell phone might be the one from which the mysterious phone calls were made? Is she helping Scott? Or is it someone from the biotech company who wants to buy the farm? Is it Cliff? Is he really trying to undermine Megan? He is trying to help, but is it genuine? Or have they just had a series of accidents that are unrelated?
The characters are believable. The family dynamics are realistic as the cousins interact. Information is given to provide an interesting story and details provided to keep the reader's interest. The plot is woven together so that it is easy to understand and draws the reader to find out what is going on. The setting is well researched so that the possibility for the story is evident. Life on a prairie farm is captured in a believable way. The mystery is also believable. The children solve the crime with the clues that they uncover in a timely manner.
The story is divided into 21 chapters varying in length. Often the chapter ends on a high point which encourages the reader to continue. Katie keeps a notebook to record her clues which helps the reader remember the information that has been given. Language works well for the intended audience. Dialogue is well written and fits both the characters and the situations.
Something Suspicious in Saskatchewan, the fourth title in this mystery series by Dayle Campbell Gaetz, would be an excellent addition to a school, public or personal library. The location, set in western Saskatchewan, adds to its appeal.
Deborah Mervold is an educator from Shellbrook, SK, now doing faculty training and program development at the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology SIAST.
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