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by R.B. Young

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-77725-331-8
Publisher: Bard Owl Books

A debut mystery, set in an Ontario town where high school proves to be murder.

It’s 2006, and Pamela Renard, who’s of Indigenous and White French Canadian heritage, is often bullied on the Mohawk reservation where she lives. She meets an all-new group of bullies when she gets a scholarship to attend Oakville’s prestigious Woodmore Academy. Redheaded Rose Molloy heads up the mean-girl group who mercilessly harass Pamela with racist insults and other verbal abuse. The following year, young janitor Sol Fitzgerald discovers Pamela’s bloody corpse, along with the body of Woodmore board member Ray Havers. The suspects include Sol himself, as he has a troubled past; Rose; and Bobby Havers, who’s Ray’s son and Pamela’s boyfriend. The revelation that Pam was pregnant adds yet another layer to police detective Alison Downey’s investigation. Race plays a big part in the book; Alison feels particular pressure to solve the case as the only Black female detective on her squad, and the author draws on the real-life 2006 Grand River land dispute between Indigenous people and the Canadian government. He also effectively illustrates how such clashes can sow racist ideas in young people’s minds. The book ably addresses social issues, such as teenage sex, drug addiction, and alcoholism. Poverty looms large for many characters; for example, Sol chafes at being a member of a less wealthy class than that of his girlfriend, Tash Harishandra. Throughout, the author succeeds at creating diverse figures who are flawed in minor and sometimes-major ways. The initial mystery is compelling, and a third death, later in the story, only heightens the suspense.

A well-paced, topical whodunit.