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Susan Brown
Richmond Hill (Ont.), Scholastic Canada, 1992. 145pp, paper, $3.95
ISBN 0-590-74093-8. (An Amber and Elliot Mystery). CIP

Reviewed by Kenneth Feild

Volume 20 Number 6
1992 November

This book is the second in the series of mysteries featuring Liz Elliot and Amber Mitchell as the intrepid detectives out to find the reason for the strange happenings at Eastern Technology's Computer Camp. It is a collaborative effort by Anne Stephenson and Susan Brown, both of whom have degrees in journalism from Carleton University and both of whom have written other novels for young people. Anne Stephenson is the author of the first Amber and Elliot mystery, entitled The Mad Hacker.

As I have already mentioned, the action in this novel takes place at Eastern Technology's Computer Camp, at which both Liz and Amber are participants. The villain is a shady, or should I say weird, character, who is out to make money at the expense of Eastern Technology and put a blight on the face of Ash Lake. It is Amber and Liz who unravel the mystery and put Ash Lake back to rights. About the plot I won't say more as one should not give the ending of a mystery away.

There are a few problems with the book, though. First, I did not get any sustained sense of menace, threat or foreboding, which to my mind are key elements in making a mystery work. Neither are the strange events that take place in the novel adequately linked. Thus, there is no continuous building of tension leading to a climax and the resolution of the mystery. One doesn't get any real clues as to what the end purpose of the events might be, and as a result there could be a problem keeping the reader interested.

Secondly, while the characters in the book carry names which connote a type of person, the character development is for the most part shallow. Again, there isn't the type of menace or foreboding that can be created through character development.

Finally, for a story about kids at computer camp, surprisingly little time is spent by the kids at the computers. Mind you, if one is solving mysteries, this can be excused.

This book is readable and suitable for young people between the ages of nine and twelve years.

Grades 4 to 7 / Ages 9 to 12.

Kenneth Field is a librarian at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario.

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