________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 26 . . . . March 9, 2012



Norah McClintock.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2012.
298 pp., trade pbk., $12.95.
ISBN 978-1-55469-989-6.

Grades 7-10 / Ages 12-15.

Review by Ann Ketcheson.

**** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



"When was the last time you saw or spoke to your father?" the woman cop asks.

"This morning." I look at the two cops. "What did he do?"

"Is there anyone else in the house with you Ms. Ouimette?" the male cop says, his eyes searching through the open door behind me. I feel ashamed at what they're seeing the shabby ground floor of a tiny run-down house that is almost more than we can afford. It's nothing like what I'm used to.

"No. I'm here alone. Why?" Something in the way he asks makes me think of all the cop shows I've watched. My imagination kicks in. I tell myself I'm being ridiculous, but the words come out anyway. "Where's my dad? Did something happen to him?"

"I'm sorry to have to tell you this," the woman cop says. "But your father is dead."

My mind blanks out. I'm looking at the woman cop. She's telling me something else. I see her lips move, but I can't hear her. I can't hear anything except the pounding of my own heart. It fills my ears. My father is dead? That's not possible.

"There must be some mistake," I say. Now I sound like someone straight out of one of those stupid TV shows.

Lila Ouimette's father is shot, apparently in the midst of committing a murder. There is no doubt because an eye witness sees everything. That eye witness is Finn Newsome, who happens to look out his bedroom window just in time to see Ouimette shoot Finn's stepmother. Finn's father struggles to get the gun from Ouimette and, in the process, kills him. Later, Finn learns that Ouimette killed his birth mother many years before and now, in what seems to be a bizarre coincidence, has also killed his stepmother. Finn and Lila meet at the police station, but although they chat, neither realizes who the other person is or how their paths will cross in the future as they both try to understand what has really happened and who is responsible.

      Norah McClintock is well-known for her many young adult crime novels and the prizes she has won over the years for her writing. Guilty will appeal to both her fans and to new readers as well. The book is fast-paced and exciting as Lila and Finn both search for the truth, and their seemingly disparate investigations begin to point to people and events for which neither is prepared. The book is written in short chapters which alternate between Lila and Finn, and so readers are able to watch each teen as they deal both with the grief of losing someone close to them and the search for truth which stuns them when it is finally revealed. The usual elements of a good mystery are all there, with a number of suspects and potential scenarios. People keep secrets of all kinds, and the final unravelling of the plot surprises both Lila and Finn and will catch readers off guard both in its simplicity and ingenuity.

      McClintock manages to create believable characters in Lila and Finn who seem destined to be wary and suspicious of one another given the circumstances in which they find themselves. The strain between the two heightens the overall tension of the novel. The author brings them close enough to one another that they are eventually able to share information and able to respect each other's feelings. The supporting characters, such as the two fathers and some of the workers at Mr. Newsome's club, are also well-defined and play important roles in the novel.

      What motivated the murders? Who is guilty? What will the fallout be for the two teenagers as they attempt to put their lives back together? McClintock eventually answers all of these questions but only after keeping readers guessing as she slowly but surely builds the suspense to the point where Lila and Finn meet the murderer face to face and the facts finally fall into place.

Highly Recommended.

Ann Ketcheson, a retired teacher-librarian and high school teacher of English and French, lives in Ottawa, ON.

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