________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 22 . . . . February 10, 2012


Agent Angus. (Orca Currents).

K. L. Denman.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2012.
121 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (PLB.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-0103-5 (pbk.), ISBN 978-4598-0104-2 (PLB).

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Yahong Chi.

**½ / 4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



Ella fastens her brown eyes on me. "Angus? Do you think you could use your mentalist skills to help me figure out who took it?"

My mouth opens and closes and opens and closes, and nothing comes out. Finally, a grunt like sound occurs. And that's it.

Ella drops her gaze to the floor. "That's okay," she mutters. "You don't have to help me." She turns away.

"Wait!" Boldly, I reach for her arm.

I don't actually catch it, but she stops and says, "Yes?"

Shahid is spinning one of his long arms in a circle. It looks like he's trying to turn the handle of a large crank. I have no idea what this means. But then he mouths the words, "Tell her!"

He wants me to tell Ella the truth. I gaze at her standing there waiting for me. She looks like a puppy hoping for a treat. And I blurt, "I'll help you."

Angus has liked Ella Eckles for ages now, so when an opportunity to impress her appears, he grabs at it and tells her he wants to be a crime solving mentalist when he grows up. The issue? Angus doesn't have any of the mentalist skills he claims he has, and when Ella turns to him to find the thief who stole her sketchbook, Angus is torn. Should he confess the truth, or take a chance and wing it, in hopes of becoming her hero?

      With relatable emotions and well placed moments of humour, Denman slips readers easily into Angus's head. Best friend Shahid acts as an excellent foil and also creates spots of tension that give their relationship a realistically rocky trajectory. Though their antics may infuriate with their over the top ridiculousness, there is, nevertheless, enough hilarity to keep readers engaged.

      Side characters like "Gaga Girl" provide entertainment and conveniently drive the plot forward, while encounters with intriguing strangers and dramatic scenes fueled by leaps to conclusions only grease the wheels of the smooth moving machine Denman's story is. The twist at the end, in contrast, comes off as contrived, almost cheesy, leaving behind a disappointed aftertaste.

      A surprising but welcome attention to detail is present: Angus is unable to wear the spy rearview sunglasses he purchases because he wears glasses; a teacher who is villainized has his name cleared thoroughly; Angus uses GPS properties of an image to identify the photographer's original location.

      With plenty of wit and seamless movement and the only major stumbling block at the end, Agent Angus reads fluidly enough for any reluctant reader to sail through.


Yahong Chi is a blogger (http://yahongchi.blogspot.com) and writer in Ottawa, ON.

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