Age Range: 14 & up
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 A supernatural mystery of a high order--named Australia's ``Best Children's Book for Older Readers'' in 1991--looks into that country's sometimes brutal relations with its indigenous people, challenging readers to interpret the past anew. The hero (or antihero--interpreting Steven Messenger is one of the intriguing tasks Crew sets) stumbles upon sacred, perhaps magical objects belonging to local aborigines: an ancient human hand and a curious gold ring in an iron pot. To whom these really belong becomes a matter of national debate--and focus of a struggle between Steven and his conscience, and between him and a tribal leader. The book is skillfully framed as a collection of documents, alternating with Steven's experiences--police accounts, letters, news stories, historical records, psychological testimony, translations, commentaries--amassed by a researcher; most compelling is the 350-year-old journal of a survivor of the ill-fated ship Batavia, whose account eventually explains the source of the objects and whose strangely possessed companion is, in many ways, Steven's diabolical double. A demanding book that forces readers to judge the evidence (it would be fascinating to analyze with a high-school English class). Whether or not its lack of resolution is stimulating may be a personal matter--some will find the inconclusive ending more annoying than provocative. Still, for anyone who's interested in literature or history, there's much here to ponder. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: May 28th, 1993
ISBN: 0-671-79759-X
Page count: 218pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1993


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