Kirkus Reviews QR Code
UNCLE SHAMUS by James Duffy


by James Duffy

Pub Date: March 31st, 1992
ISBN: 0-684-19434-1
Publisher: Scribner

Two ten-year-olds, residents of Shanty Town, run errands for one ex-con and help him outwit another. When blind old ``Uncle Shamus'' moves into an abandoned shanty, Marleena and Akers sidle over and are soon drawn into buying things for him, making taxi arrangements, and eventually digging up the money whose theft put him in the pen many years back. When another graduate of the prison shows up determined to find the hidden loot, the children join Uncle Shamus in a plot to get the money, outwit the villain, and help Shamus himself disappear. Much stretches credulity here. Both children are nice, well- mannered, and hard-working, but neither expresses any compunction over receiving the stolen money (except in an offhand way), and while Shamus gives back his share, it is not clear what the children will do with theirs. A kind of nostalgic mist seems to set the book in a previous era: out-of-date names like Shanty Town and Shamus; the lack of violence on the part of hard-core convicts; the trusting way the children's parents allow them to befriend an ex- con, spend his money for him, and accept lavish gifts—and yet the fact that Marleena is white and Akers is black isn't mentioned until late and is never a conflict. Ethically, this is ambiguous, and the simplifications in plot aren't likely to entertain any thinking young person. (Fiction. 9-11)