CM . . .
. Volume XVI Number 31. . . .April 16, 2010
The Spider Bites. (Rapid Reads).
Victoria, BC: Raven Books/Orca, 2010.
131 pp., pbk., $9.95.
Grade 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.
Review by Ann Ketcheson.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
I decided to take advantage of the temporary darkness. I slipped across the road to the house. I figured I probably had at least fifteen minutes before a crew turned up and fixed the problem. I could do a lot of searching in fifteen minutes. I took out my flashlight. I could get into the basement a lot faster if I had some light. But then I thought about those two guys who had turned up in the park and the two cops on the street.
I changed my mind. I went by feel instead, depending on my memory of the shape of the ruined building. I made my way over to the kitchen window in the back. It was broken. Reaching out cautiously, I found jagged pieces of glass still in the frame. I took them out, one by one. As soon as I had enough space, I reached in to open the latch. And stopped. I heard a tiny click. Then a faint scraping sound. Something was moving about nearby. Very quietly. A night-prowling animal? I drew my hand out of the treacherous window frame. And listened. Another faint sound of movement.
I froze. The something heavy cracked a piece of glass beside me. It seemed as loud as a pistol shot. I pulled my knees up to my belly and kicked out in the direction of the noise. I made contact. Someone swore.
I felt a sharp, brutal pain on the side of my head. Nothing more.
Raven Books, an imprint of Orca Book Publishers, has initiated a new "Rapid Reads" series, and this is one of the first four novels chosen to be part of it. The intended audience is diverse: ESL students, adults with literacy difficulties, reluctant readers, and anyone who wants a fast-paced, short novel which can be read quickly and easily.
In The Spider Bites, Rick Montoya is a cop whom some people call the Spider. He has been suspended from duty during an investigation of charges of corruption. After working on a farm for five months, he comes back to the city determined to clear his name and rebuild his reputation. Returning to his old apartment, he finds someone else living there, and before he can get to the bottom of this, the apartment building is destroyed in a fire which kills both the landlady and the mysterious tenant. Was the fire meant to kill Rick? Are shady characters from his past attempting their ultimate revenge?
Medora Sale presents readers with a small but intriguing group of suspects as Rick gradually unravels the arson. The characters are realistic although not filled out in great detail. The novel is plot-driven, reminiscent of a television cop drama where characters and settings take a back seat to events. Most of the clues are in the dialogue among the characters and within the inner workings of Rick's mind as he puzzles over what has happened and tries to find some logical explanation.
The Spider Bites is a well-written and exciting novel. The time frame is condensed, and there are no flashbacks to confuse the action. The language is simple and the sentences short. It is competitively priced. Keen readers of the mystery genre will miss the plot intricacies and detailed descriptions of more sophisticated whodunits. However, Orca Publishing is out to attract an entirely different group with this series. Their website states that studies suggest some 50% of North Americans struggle with literacy and so a series like Rapid Reads, written between a 2.0 and 4.5 reading level, is sure to find a market. The Spider Bites is one of the first entries in what may well become a large and popular series of easy-read novels.
Ann Ketcheson, a retired teacher-librarian and high school teacher of English and French, resides in Ottawa, ON.
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