________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number 10 . . . . January 21, 2000

cover Password: MURDER.

Norah McClintock.
Markham, ON: Scholastic Canada Ltd., 1999.
204 pp., pbk., $5.99.
ISBN 0-590-51505-5.

Subject Headings:
Murder-Juvenile fiction.
Parents-Death-Juvenile fiction.
Stepfathers-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 8-12 / Ages 13-17.
Review by Ruth Scales McMahon.

**1/2 /4


"Maybe my dad is right, is that what you said? Geez Rat, he's dead. He's been dead for over a year." Twelve months, one week, and four days to be precise. "He can't possibly be right about anything."

Rat's cheeks flushed. He looked sheepish. "You know what I mean," he said. "I mean maybe you have doubts about what happened. Maybe seeing your dad the way you have been means you think something's wrong, something's eating at you. It's possible, isn't it?"

The plot line is familiar to a point. Her husband is killed in a car accident. Shortly after the accident, she marries his best friend and business partner. He moves into the family home, under suspicious circumstances. This is where the plot leaves familiar territory. The story unfolds from the point of view of the hero, 17-year-old Harley Dankser, son of the deceased and the widow. As Harley was behind the wheel of his father's car at the time of the accident, he believes that he is responsible for his father's death. Following the accident, Harley has a nervous breakdown and is hospitalized. When he is released, he is not sure whether he is haunted by nightmares or visions. In one of these incidents, Harley's father tells him that his death was not accidental but was murder. This "information" sends Harley in search of the answer to the mystery. Those who are familiar with this plot line, regularly played out on TV and in movies, will probably find it difficult to wait for the inevitable solution. However, the action is fast paced, and there are some interesting twists along the way. The ending is tidy but not candy-coated.

McClintock's characters are convincing, and her representation of Harley's mental collapse believable. The characters are complex, and the gray areas of their personalities add spice to the plot. McClintock's writing style is direct and accessible. The chapter in which Harley relives the preamble to the accident and the accident itself is written in the present tense. This skillful approach gives the incident a sense of immediacy and tells readers to sit up and take note.

Password: MURDER will be a popular book for its intended audience. It is also a great springboard to other mysteries.


Ruth Scales McMahon, a library consultant and storyteller, is currently the co-chair of the Alberta Young Reader's Choice Award and the co-chair of the Lethbridge Children's Literature Roundtable.

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

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364