________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 9 . . . . November 2, 2012


The Scratch on the Ming Vase.

Caroline Stellings.
Toronto, ON: Second Story Press, 2012.
139 pp., trade pbk., $11.95.
ISBN 978-1-926920-91-7.

Grades 7-9 / Ages 12-14.

Review by Mary Thomas.

**** /4



The martial arts academy swarmed with crime-scene investigators. Fenwick stopped when he saw the yellow tape across the door. Nicki ducked underneath.

"I'll be back in a minute." she told him.

She darted upstairs.

A senior officer noticed her immediately.

"What do you think you're doing?" he shouted.

"I'm looking for something ... I left behind," she said.

"Look, Miss," said the cop, "this is a crime scene. You'll have to leave."

The female officer who had accompanied Nicki to the hospital stepped forward. "This is the girl who found the victim," she offered.

"I'll only be a minute." Nicki's eyes scoured the room.

"You'll go now," said the cop. He turned to the female officer. "Get her out of here."

"Okay, I'm leaving," said Nicki.

The female officer escorted her downstairs.

Nicki went to find Fenwick, but a conversation between two officers stirred her curiosity. Their voices were barely audible over the sounds from the street. She listened intently.

"The RCMP is going to be handling the investigation," said one of them. "Once we're finished here."

"The Royal Canadian Mounted Police? Why?"

"David Kahana isn't just a kung fu expert," replied the officer. "He's a United States Secret Service agent."

Chinese mastercraftsmen knew that perfect does not equate to beautiful, and so each piece of pottery, each painting, was created with a tiny flaw -- a scratch, a misplaced drop of paint within the glaze -- to ensure that the end result was indeed truly 'beautiful'. This small fact is the clue that Nicki, a 16-year-old kung-fu expert and adopted Chinese daughter of super-rich Canadian parents, needs to begin to solve the mystery of why the martial-arts master with whom she had hoped to study in Toronto was stabbed and nearly killed the day she arrives in the city. Since she was the first on the scene, she feels some responsibility for finding his attacker, and she does.

      The Scratch on the Ming Vase is a real page-turner from the first appearance of the vase at the site of an attempted murder of Sun Yat-Sen back in 1901 in Hawaii to the denoument revelation of just who the characters readers have met are and the parts they have played in the drama. No one is exactly who he -- or she -- appears to be, with perhaps the exception of the owners of the somewhat rundown deli operating in the shadow of a very upscale hotel. The hotel, incidentally, just happens to be owned by Nicki's parents.

      The action is fast, with some, but not all of it, involving Nicki's ability to take out several armed opponents simultaneously without breaking into a sweat, and the reasoning is convoluted enough that readers may have to go back to check their facts from time to time, but it's all good fun and readers will love it. Enjoy!

Highly Recommended.

Mary Thomas has retired from working in elementary school libraries in Winnipeg, MB, but still loves finding a book she could really have recommended to her students.

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

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