________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 18. . . .May 2, 2008


Dooley Takes the Fall.

Norah McClintock.
Calgary, AB: Red Deer Press, 2007.
313 pp., pbk., $14.95.
ISBN 978-0-88995-403-8.

Subject Headings:
Conduct of life-Fiction.

Grades 8-12 / Ages 13-17.

Review by Darleen Golke.

**** /4



"I mean the cops are going to want to investigate, which means we should protect the scene from anyone disturbing it," Dooley said. The kid's eyes widened at the word "we." "The way we do that is I stay down here and make sure no one comes along and touches anything, and you go up there and call 911." The boy didn't seem to like the way Dooley assigned responsibilities. "You have to come right back after you make the call," Dooley said. "The cops are going to want to talk to you. They're going to want a statement from you."

"Yeah?" the boy on the bike said, excited now.

"Yeah," Dooley said. "You think you can handle that?"

"You know it," the boy said. Dooley guessed he hadn't had much to do with cops. If he had, he wouldn't be so enthusiastic. The boy mounted his bike and started pedaling toward the path that led up the side of the ravine.

Dooley looked down at the kid on the asphalt. With his staring eyes and twisted head and all that blood, the kid looked pretty bad. Dooley could feel himself starting to shake. He'd seen a lot of things, but he'd never seen anything like this. He drew in a deep breath and told himself to get a grip. The kid wasn't a real person anymore. He didn't even look like a real person. He looked more like a wax dummy in a House of Horrors. Dooley wondered what the kid had been thinking on the way down. He knew he should feel sorry for the kid, but the truth was, he didn't. What goes around comes around, he thought.

Dooley felt like an idiot having to tell the first cop that showed up, "I gotta get to a phone and call home right away." But he did it anyway because, if worst came to worst, the cop would be able to tell Dooley's uncle that Dooley had tried.

Dooley was pretty sure he recognized the cop and just as sure that the cop recognized him, especially after the cop said, "First, you tell me what you know about this. Then we'll see about a phone call."


Getting off work at the video store early for a change, 17-year-old Dooley decides to take a walk along the ravine because he is tired "of having to be every place exactly on time just to prove to everyone that he wasn't a total [screw]-up anymore," a decision that proves costly when he sees a body fly off a bridge and becomes ensnared in the subsequent investigation. Neglected by a dysfunctional mother, Dooley spends time in detention for a house burglary gone wrong before his ex-cop uncle takes him in, enrolls him in school, gets him into therapy, encourages his working at the video store, ensures he eats well and lives comfortably, but monitors his activities closely and keeps him on a short leash.

     The jumper, Mark Everley, apparently had been drinking heavily, and the cops initially consider the death a suicide. Mark's sister, Beth, with whom Dooley is smitten, refuses to believe her brother jumped. She quizzes Dooley about what he witnessed, especially about a missing backpack, and she asks him to undergo hypnosis to recall events. Dooley holds Mark in contempt for his harassment of a Down's Syndrome girl who patronized the video store; he engaged in fisticuffs with Mark, and that altercation comes back to haunt him. Too soon, Dooley faces a trio of Mark's buddies, among them Dooley's former burglary partner.

      Things spin out of control when Dooley manipulates events so he can attend a fund-raising party hosted by smooth-talking, preppy Win Rhodes to support establishing a Mark Everley Memorial Scholarship. Because Beth will be at the party, Dooley decides to go; unfortunately, someone slips him roofies (Rohypnol), and he ends up in hospital, a suspect in an electronic store "smash-and-grab" where his wallet is found, but he has no memory of the night. The disappearance of his former burglary partner the same night ramps up the action.

      To Dooley's surprise his uncle has his back. He canvasses his cop contacts for information about the jumper case, defends Dooley after the party fiasco, refuses to allow the cops to bully him, insists the hospital test a urine sample, supports him with the youth worker, accompanies and protects him in police interviews, hires a lawyer, threatens the school vice-principal who tries to expel Dooley, assures Dooley he'll try to find corroborating evidence for his whereabouts the night of Mark's death, trusts Dooley to stay alone when he goes out of town, and counsels him on how to handle the cops.

      Dooley, deciding to conduct his own investigation, manages to track down the missing backpack only to find a flash drive with locked files and no password. Warren, geeky brother of the Down's Syndrome girl Dooley defended, unlocks the files and prints a series of puzzling photographs. Armed with information and various theories, Dooley ends up back at the party house only to learn his assumptions are way off base. In a dramatic climax, he witnesses another murder and almost loses his own life in the process of finally identifying the serial killer who plans to set Dooley up as the perpetrator and execute him.

      A five time winner of the Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Award, McClintock handles the genre deftly. In the first of a planned trilogy for older teens, she presents a troubled young man determined to turn his life around under the stern eye of his uncle. An appealing character, Dooley chaffs at the restrictions, yet genuinely wants to straighten out his life and make amends for past mistakes. He is resourceful, intolerant of bullies and liars, self-reliant yet needy, tough, dependable, and intelligent. The multi-layered, well-paced, complex plot evolves gradually, revealing bits of information to explain seemingly puzzling events. The body count includes a young child, two homeless men, and three teens before the murderer is collared. McClintock, in her usual competent style, adeptly scatters clues throughout the novel to foreshadow the final unveiling. The novel addresses various issues, among them bullying, discrimination, peer pressure, relationships, the youth justice system, police treatment of teens, teen-adult relations, appearance versus reality, and illegal immigration. With well-paced action, graphic dialogue, intelligent prose, an engaging protagonist, a nice variety of secondary characters, and a compelling story, this page-turner should appeal strongly to fans of the mystery genre.

Highly Recommended.

Darleen Golke, a retired-teacher librarian, writes from her home in Abbotsford, BC.

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

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