________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 7 . . . . November 23, 2007

cover

The Mystery of the Martello Tower: A Hazel Trump Adventure.

Jennifer Lanthier.
Toronto, ON: HarperCollins, 2007.
240 pp., pbk., $15.99.
ISBN 978-00-0-639523-2.

Grades 6-8 / Ages 11-13.

Review by Lindsay Schluter.

** /4

excerpt: 

“Wait – is the door to the tunnel locked?” 

Clive Pritchard gave a loud, theatrical groan. “That was the whole reason I drove over here this afternoon,” he said. “I made sure those kids weren’t around, and then went through the tunnel to the tower door and locked it myself.”

“Yes, I know, but did you remember to take the key? You didn’t leave it where anyone could find it?”

Hazel didn’t wait for Clive Pritchard’s answer. She scampered across the room and escaped through the tunnel door, pulling it shut behind her. With trembling fingers she reached up and turned the skeleton key in the lock, just as she heard the trap door to the cellar room open. Heavy footsteps thudded down the stairs she had perched on just moments ago.

Leaning against the tunnel wall, eyes fixed on the door she hoped she had just locked, Hazel willed herself to remain calm. She clamped her uninjured hand over her nose and mouth to stifle the sound of her breathing. The knob rattled and the door shook. Hazel didn’t move until she heard the footsteps retreating up the stairs. Then she bolted, running as fast as she could in the darkness, back through the tunnels to the safety of the castle.

 

It is the first day of summer vacation, and, although this glorious time of year is oftentimes accompanied by the most beauteous sense of boredom, 12-year-old Hazel Frump and her younger brother Ned are about to embark upon an adventure that leaves them feeling anything but bored. 

     Awoken with a jolt, Hazel learns that her own father has, strangely, disappeared. Colin Frump is a guarded and reserved man, but, when the children discover that he has impulsively caught a last-minute flight overseas, without explanation, they become suspicious. The very next day, the children’s worst fears are confirmed, and in a menacing fury, two mysterious goons appear at their father’s art studio demanding that a valuable painting be returned to them immediately. In a matter of hours, their father’s office is found raided and robbed; but it isn’t until the children see the front page of a European newspaper, featuring a picture of their father in handcuffs, that they become desperate for answers .

     Short of wearing deerstalker caps and frock coats, Hazel and Ned become their own savvy Sherlocks, traversing the secret passage-ways of an ancient castle, battling adversaries in a modern-day-duel on the basketball court, and setting off stink-bombs at the very peak of danger. Wrapped up in all of the chaos is the detective-duo’s father, and, although the children refuse to believe that he is involved in the underhanded dealings of a furtive art scandal, they realize that it is their own family history that will help them solve this puzzling mystery.

     Distinctly Canadian, this novel is a thinly veiled, although slightly tailored version of Kingston and neighboring county Wolfe Island. Lanthier, herself, resided in Kingston for a number of years, and so it comes as no surprise that, peeking through the pages, are “fields of corn and soybeans,” “grey limestone houses,” and “gardens overflowing with roses and hollyhocks.” Mirrored in the novel’s main character, Hazel, is Lanthier’s passion for basketball, and, although this red-head is slightly less fiery than the one from Green Gables, Hazel has independence, self-assurance, and a wicked lay-up, making her a great role model for young readers today.

     Hazel’s owlish brother Ned, whose first love is a chemistry set, simply radiates personality; although not so much can be said for the rest of the rather extensive cast of characters. Readers will inevitably struggle with Plevit and Pritchard, Mark and Matt, Jane and Julia – all of whom exhibit a somewhat indistinct set of character traits.

     In a style reminiscent of Enid Blyton, Lanthier has imagined a world where children rule the day. Adults are few and far between, and even when they do happen upon a scene, they are either incompetent, like Frankie, whose home-cooking amounts to charred meat and leathery eggs, or they are loathsome arch-enemies, destined for imprisonment. Children are empowered with self-sufficiency, and without a doubt, readers will ultimately feel as though they are part of a secret club whose membership is honored by way of not being an adult.

     Throughout most of the novel, Lanthier does an excellent job of leaving readers on the edge of their seats – particularly at chapter’s end; however it is only halfway through the novel that Hazel and Ned begin to pick up their magnifying glasses. Clues seem to haphazardly fall into the laps of the unsuspecting children, and without much effort at all, they acquire almost all of the pieces to the puzzle. Closer to the end of the novel, Lanthier does allow for a delightful sequence of detective work, but too much reliance on the Internet as a deductive-reasoning tool leaves readers wondering whether or not Hazel really would have what it takes to be in the same ring as Nancy Drew.

     Set for release in March of 2008, Lanthier’s next installment of Hazel Frump’s Adventures is likely to be just as exhilarating as the first.     

     Hazel herself proclaims that she has “had enough adventure to last a long, long time”……..but I hope she hasn’t. 

Recommended.

Lindsay Schluter is a student of Library and Information Studies at the University of British Columbia.

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.
 

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