Helen Curragh, nervously starting her freshman year at New Bedford Regional High after comfy times at St. Theresa's...

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THE MAN IN THE WOODS

Helen Curragh, nervously starting her freshman year at New Bedford Regional High after comfy times at St. Theresa's parochial school, has an exciting, disturbing first day. One of her new teachers notices her drawing talent and promptly sends her over to the school newspaper editor--who (largely because of the teacher's good-natured blackmail power) makes Helen the assistant staff-artist. (The head artist is the editor's girlfriend, who has ""the heart of a Hostess Twinkie"" and turns out cute, ""disgusting little caterpillar drawings. . ."") Then, on the way home with new pal/enemy Pinky Levy, Helen witnesses an accident: the notorious ""Punk Rock Thrower"" strikes again, heaving a stone at a moving car--and Helen impetuously follows the barely-glimpsed villain into the woods, where he calmly eludes her. No one but Helen believes that this ""man in the woods"" is really the culprit, however--especially once the police arrest notorious juvenile delinquent Stubby Atlas for the ""Thrower"" crimes. So she has to go it mostly alone (with occasional assists from Pinky, that nice new teacher, or a favorite old nun/teacher) in her sleuthing. The primary clue? The anonymous note to the police that fingered Stubby--which was typed, as it turns out, on a rare 19th-century sort of typewriter. And eventually, while Helen receives some threatening messages, the search for that one-of-a-kind typing machine leads her to the secrets of an old New Bedford family, to a Victorian cellar beneath the woodsy ground. . . and (least satisfyingly) to a local drug-ring. As a mystery, then, this doesn't quite measure up to Wells' very best (e.g., Leave Well Enough Alone). But motherless Helen is an appealing, frizzy-haired, plucky but not too plucky heroine--with a very credible Irish father and Irish aunt at home. (They argue about the Queen and Ted Kennedy.) The high-school atmospheres are amusingly sketched. And an underlying theme of journalistic decency--Helen has to decide whether to write up the whole story or respect some innocent people's privacy--adds extra texture to a warm, layered blend of suspense, charm, and character.

Pub Date: June 1, 1984

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1984