CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 7. . . .October 18, 2013
Valentino Pier is an action-packed mystery that focuses on the strange goings-on of the aforementioned Valentino Pier that overlooks the New York Harbor. The novel is actually part of Raven Book’s “Rapid Reads” series. According to the publisher, “Rapid Reads are intended for a diverse audience, including ESL students, reluctant readers, adults who struggle with literacy and anyone who wants an high-interest quick read.” For the purposes of this review, however, I am recommending this book for teens ages 13 and up.
As the story begins, the audience is first introduced to the protagonist, Gulliver Dowd, a private investigator with a layered past. One day while on a walk to Valentino Pier, one of Gulliver’s favourite landmarks, he meets Ellis Torres, a 10-year-old street kid, who is looking for his missing dog, Ugly. After successfully tracking down the dog, Gulliver takes him to the vet and quickly starts up a relationship with Mia, Dr. Prentice’s secretary. Tragedy strikes, however, when Gulliver returns home only to be notified by the police that Ellis Torres was badly beaten and left unconscious near Valentino Pier.
Gulliver vows to find out what happened to Ellis. Because he feels like he needs to stick up for all the nameless children on the streets, Gulliver puts his PI skills to the test and discovers a strange set of circumstances that lead him all the way back to Dr. Prentice, the veterinarian. After putting himself (and Mia) at great risk, Gulliver discovers that Dr. Prentice is actually smuggling exotic animals into the country to sell to private zoos and hunting clubs. Unfortunately, while sleeping at Valentino Pier, Ellis had discovered Prentice’s secret.
After reading this novel, I feel like it was a bit too predictable. It literally followed the plot structure of the mystery/crime genre to a “T”, complete with a hostage taking and a shoot out. On the plus side, some readers, especially reluctant readers, may find this structure reassuring. Overall, I found the book to be well-written, fast paced, and loaded with interesting characters. Therefore, I recommend Valentino Pier to teenagers, reluctant readers or not, who enjoy a good mystery.
Teresa Iaizzo works part-time as a page for the Toronto Public Library and as a Reference Librarian for George Brown College.