Using their active fourth-grade imaginations, Mikey and his best friend, Kyler, believe that a large, tattooed white man with red hair they begin tracking is a time-traveling Celtic warrior.
There’s plenty to contradict this belief. The “Celt,” whom Mikey first observes acting completely out of control at the local Veterans Affairs hospital emergency room, seems to have some connection to classmate Ryan, who later encounters him too and is obviously afraid of him. Clues indicate that things are far from normal in Ryan’s life. There are other hints, as well, if Mikey only had a willingness to pay attention to them. He discovers that his live-in grandfather suffered from mental health problems, as some veterans do, after returning from Vietnam. But the Celt appears to believe himself to be a warrior and conveniently often screams Irish words and names legendary figures in his ranting—which Mikey recognizes after reading Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Hound of Ulster. Mikey’s first-person, present-tense voice and conversations with Kyler ring true enough, but the narrative seems shaped mostly to present the message about the pervasively destructive effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. A too-easy resolution and feel-good ending contradict the long-term nature of the disorder. Corny, garish cover art does little to sell the tale.
Useful for bibliotherapy but neither suspenseful nor convincing enough to be fully effective as a mystery. (Fiction. 10-14)