CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 9 . . . . December 22, 2006
Craig is a 17-year-old minor hockey star whose reputation as being cold and calculating masks his tension and nervousness on the ice. Traded to the Red Deer Rebels to save their season, he and his team find themselves the victims of several acts of sabotage, including cockroaches in their uniforms. After an anonymous accusation that Craig beat up a non-existent girlfriend, his teammates' stolen wallets are found in his gym bag, and he is asked to take a break from playing. Secretly remaining in town, he enlists the help of new-found friend, Cheryl, to help him investigate. Evidence that the team's trainer Teddy is behind the goings on is found, and the team welcomes him back. Armed with Cheryl's advice to loosen up, Craig proves himself a star at a decisive game where a final act of sabotage by Teddy is exposed due to Craig's quick thinking.
Brouwer's strength in this book is his straightforward, faced-paced writing, especially in the game scenes. The character-driven part of the story is intriguing, with Craig's detachment and tension betraying his feelings about his estranged mother; but Cheryl seems a little too all-knowing to be true, and her speech to him about needing to loosen up seems to come out of nowhere. That said, Craig's release of tension at the final game, including a passing mention of being able now to face his mother, is palpable.
The mystery also seems a little underdeveloped. Brouwer does a good job of dropping hints about Teddy - Craig has no suspicions of him - but there's something not quite right every time he is mentioned. But Cheryl's expertise at investigating, the ease with which Craig gets the decisive evidence (Teddy recently bought cockroaches from a biological supplier), his confrontation with Teddy, and his speech asking the team to believe him - all are a little too easy and do not live up to the initial character tension. In short, a great basis for a novel, but not quite developed to its potential.
Recommended with reservations.
Todd Kyle is a former President of the Canadian Association of Children's Librarians who is currently a library branch manager in Mississauga, ON.
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