CM . . . .
Volume VII Number 17 . . . . April 27, 2001
"Even an experienced detective can miss things. Take me, for example. Stevie Diamond, girl detective, just turned thirteen. In the past year, I've brought five crooks to justice. I've been thanked by the police, congratulated by the mayor and interviewed on the six o'clock news. All that, and I still didn't see the freight-train-sized mystery that was sitting there, right in the middle of my own family!"Youthful fans of mystery stories are by now very familiar with the duo of Diamond and Kulniki. This pair are friends, neighbours and, most importantly, detecting partners. In a succession of cases, they have solved mysteries ranging from a missing dog to a secretive snowmobiler. In How Can a Brilliant Detective Shine in the Dark? they face the challenge of a long-standing secret. When Stevie Diamond and her mother go to Catriola Island for a family reunion, it is primarily to see Uncle Archie, a relative who has suddenly reappeared after an absence of 45 years. At first, Stevie thinks she will be tackling this puzzle on her own, but, when Jesse's resort holiday is cancelled, he is invited to join the group. The persistence of younger cousins, whose card playing repertoire is limited to "Go Fish," is a hazard for Jesse and Stevie. However, they soon set themselves to sorting out the mystery of Uncle Archie. His background as a circus performer adds a certain cachet to the exercise, but that is only the beginning, as the discovery of a battered map of the island opens the field to their higher level detection skills.
The popularity of Linda Bailey's books is apparent in a public library where the titles are either already off the shelf, or are asked for by young patrons, thus indicating the personal preferences of the youth readership. A secondary, adult indicator of judgement is the fact that Bailey has been awarded the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Juvenile Mystery, first for her 1997 title, How can a Frozen Detective Stay Hot on the Trail and more recently, for the present title. Although the adult approbation is important, the best recommendation is the popularity of the books among juvenile readers. In this addition to the series, Bailey creates a complex composite using a bat cave, missing Yukon gold, an apparent murder, a mysterious neighbour and a treasure map. With these, she shows the sign of a sure hand with the mystery genre and, in particular, with children's fantasies. The interplay and humour between the two characters is less developed in this book, which is a shame as this is a strength in the others. Instead, Bailey uses the quirkiness of the elderly aunts as a device to generate humour. This approach is not as effective as the contrasts between the intrepid Stevie and the cautious Jesse. However, the loyalty of Stevie Diamond fans is assured. The conclusion which unfolds with three different versions of the fateful events builds to an eminently satisfying conclusion, one which will leave fans demanding more, more, and more.
Jennifer Johnson works as a librarian in Ottawa, ON.
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