CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 41. . . .June 25, 2010.
The Adventures of Jack Lime.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2010.
126 pp., pbk. & hc., $10.95 (pbk.), $18.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55453-365-7 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55453-364-0 (hc.).
Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-14.
Review by Mary Thomas.
What you are about to read are some of the more interesting cases that have crossed my desk. You see, I'm a detective, a private investigator, a gumshoe. What I do is fix problems for people who need their problems fixed. My name is Jack Lime, and these are my stories.
The names of people and places haven't been changed to protect the innocent. Everything is exactly as it happened.
Jack Lime is a PI who goes to a high school in a gated, high-end suburb where everyone, except him, lives in a million-dollar bungalow. He lives with his grandmother in one of the two houses left from before the development was built, having moved there after his parents were killed in a car crash. Initially he tried to make friends and influence people at school by throwing around lots of cash and having the coolest outfits, etc., but when that became impossible to maintain and he was still on the outside of every group, he started taking notice of what was going on around him. So when someone has a problem--say, a cheerleader thinks her footballer boyfriend is two-timing her--she can ask Jack to find out whether he is or not, and he will do it, supplying videos if required. Sometimes his “cases” have disastrous results, especially since, when Jack is stressed--and who wouldn't be stressed when a large football player is pounding you into the dirt--he falls asleep. He seems always to recover, however, and whether or not the cheerleader is grateful, he will eventually collect his payment: a favour. As he says, "I steer clear of cash because I learned the hard way that things can get very messy when you're dealing with dough."
The Adventures of Jack Lime is a collection of three "cases" that Jack got involved with and solved with varying degrees of success. Which is to say, Jack always found out what happened, but his client wasn't necessarily pleased with the result.
Reading this book gave me very strong feelings of Dragnet--I could practically hear the theme music in the background--and Raymond Chandler--all tough talk of "dough" and "dames". And like both of these, it is really fun. Jack is not a hero, does not know judo, can be persuaded to become involved in a dubious situation by a pretty face, even though he should know from experience that the pretty face seldom is very appreciative. At any rate, he never seems to end up with a friend at the end of a case. When “The Case of the Broken Lock” eventually concludes:
[e]very other kid in Iona was down the street at the Bijou catching a flick or sucking down a mocha cappuccino at Monty's Cafe, or maybe locked in their room getting ready for final exams, but I wasn't. I was inside, tucked into the rear booth of The Diner, nursing a root beer float and trying not to think about Sandra Kucker. The place was empty... Empty wasn't unusual for The Diner, a place with no real name. Empty suited me just fine. I needed a little peace and quiet.
While I find the stories in The Adventures of Jack Lime nostalgic and entertaining for that reason, I think that the modern kid will enjoy them as well. The essence of 'cool' is hard to define; Jack doesn't have it, but he appreciates it, acknowledges it, and is not overly impressed by it. All the affluence surrounding him doesn't actually impress him either. Instead, he has smarts, a certain power of observation, and a logical mind that can reason from A to B and deduce C. While I wouldn't recommend that a kid take up Jack's penchant for getting himself hammered by the opposition, he doesn't make a bad role model in other respects. I think kids won't identify with him, but they'll admire him and enjoy his adventures.
Mary Thomas works at an elementary school in Winnipeg, MB, and has always liked hard-boiled-cop stories.
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