________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 17. . . .January 4, 2013


Evil Behind That Door. (Rapid Reads).

Barbara Fradkin.
Victoria, BC: Raven Books/Orca, 2012.
119 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 978-1-4598-0100-4.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.

Review by Jocelyn Reekie.

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.

*** /4



The Mitchell farmhouse was even older than mine, probably built in the 1850s. Who knew how long this door had been here and what was on the other side?

A secret tunnel? A time capsule?

I thought of my own basement, dark, spooky and smelling of rotten earth. A magnet for a kid with a big imagination and too much time on his hands. As a kid, I would have been through this door in a flash.

But Barry just shook his head. He was already backing up, heading for the stairs. That’s when I saw the crowbar in his hands. He looked too, and seemed surprised to find it there. He laid it down on the workbench.

“Forget it Rick. We done enough for today. Let’s go grab a beer.” Then he was up the stairs two at a time and out of sight.

I shoved the door, but it didn’t budge. I threw my weight against it. Nothing. Now, I’m only five ten and one fifty after two beers and plate of wings. But most of that is muscle. Besides paying the bills, handyman work keep you in shape.

This door was going to be a challenge.


Two-time Arthur Ellis award winner Barbara Fradkin is at it again, creating a distinctive sleuth who comes to life on the page and keeps readers reading as much to find out more about him as to discover the answer to secrets others would prefer to keep. Cedric Elvis O’Toole (Rick to those who know him) is a guy who loves to put things together in new ways. He works on a shoestring budget, but his lack of funds doesn’t curb his enthusiasm for invention. He’s resourceful. And very inquisitive—a useful trait for an inventor, but one that, even combined with a soft-spoken nature, seems to land him in trouble often.

     As well as being an inventor whose first successful invention is still waiting somewhere in the wings, Rick is the owner of a marginal farm. Any money he does make comes from hiring himself out as a handyman. In Evil Behind That Door, readers find him going to work for Barry Mitchell, a man recently released from the Kingston Pen where he spent two years for assault. Rick has known Barry for thirty years, but they have never been friends. Now, Barry’s parents have gone missing, and Rick is well aware Barry is suspected of having a hand in their disappearance. But Barry needs someone to help him fix up his parents’ decrepit old farmhouse so he can sell it, and Rick needs cash. So, putting his better judgement aside, Rick takes the job. He soon discovers there is much more at the Mitchell farm than he bargained for. His finding a child’s skull deepens the plot and raises Barry’s fear and anger to new heights.

     The plot of Evil Behind That Door is not complicated, nor are the secondary characters who will regularly come into play in Rick’s life one way or another. In fact, perhaps the biggest weakness in the book is its stock supporting cast.

     Any amateur sleuth needs a full-time officer of the law to depend on, and Rick has one in Constable Jessica Swan. Apparently as graceful as her last name, she doesn’t dismiss Rick’s theories or get angry at his meddling in matters best left to the police, though she does cause him to become tongue-tied, and when she smiles, every thought Rick has flies out of his brain. Enter also Rick’s aging relative, Aunt Penny, who owns the local grocery store. Aunt Penny is a standard foil for Rick’s impulsiveness with her straightforward common sense. However, if Rick’s friends are somewhat sketchy at this point in their development, the protagonist is well-drawn and likeable because, as well as being capable, he’s vulnerable.

     Evil Behind That Door is the second in Fradkin’s Cedric O’Toole series, with the first being The Fall Guy. Evil Behind That Door is a fast-paced story aimed at adult readers, including ESL students, reluctant readers, adults who struggle with literacy and anyone who wants a high-interest read they can finish in one sitting. In the latter category, it will also suit teen readers who enjoy intrigue and are looking for a mystery that will hold their interest but not take up a huge chunk of their time. I am generally a slow reader, but I burned through this book in an hour and a half. And though the plot is not complicated, Fradkin draws on her experience as a psychologist to weave subplots into the main thread and knot them in a twist at the end. If one fantasized that life in the country was always a much quieter, more peaceful affair than life in a city, one would be wrong. The author exposes the violent side, but, perhaps in the country, the violence is more often kept behind closed doors.

     The differences between city life and country life and the psychological profiles raised in Evil Behind That Door could be lively topics of discussion.


Jocelyn Reekie is a writer, editor and publisher in Campbell River, BC. Peregrin Publishing’s first title, Escape, appeared in November 2012.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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