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Sunday, 2 June 2013

TBC: Mystery At Lake Placid

I happen to have a deep appreciation for book series that introduce readers to a character or group of characters while telling multiple stories involving those characters. I like the idea of the introduction of people you want to get to know, followed by the examination of those characters in terms of their strengths and weaknesses. When I can find that kind of writing AND get it in a series of books meant for younger readers, Teebz's Book Club will not pass that opportunity up. With that in mind, Teebz's Book Club is proud to review Mystery at Lake Placid, written by Roy MacGregor and published by McClelland & Stewart. This is the first book in the "Screech Owls" series, and it really is an excellent tome for establishing our hockey stars as well as kicking off the series with a solid story.

From the ScreechOwls Online website, Roy MacGregor has been involved in hockey all his life while growing up in Huntsville, Ontario. He competed for several years against a kid named Bobby Orr who was playing in nearby Parry Sound. He worked as a columnist for the Ottawa Citizen and is now a senior columnist for the National Post. He has written several classic hockey stories, including Home Game (written with Ken Dryden) and The Home Team, and many hockey books for younger readers such as A Loonie for Luck. He and his wife, Ellen, live in Kanata, Ontario. They have four children, Kerry, Christine, Jocelyn, and Gordon. He still plays old-timers hockey and has been a minor-hockey coach for more than a decade.

We meet our main character, Travis Lindsay, awakening from a deep sleep while traveling in a van. It's not the normal meeting of a main character, but Mr. MacGregor's writing style accounts for this odd meeting of our principle player. Travis is a winger with the Tamarack Screech Owls, a solid scoring threat with an appreciation for back-checking. We meet all the players of the team - goaltender Guy Boucher and backup female netminder Sareen Goupa; defencemen Wayne "Nish" Nishikawa, Larry "Data" Ulmar, Norbert "Captain Video" Philpott, Willie Granger, Wilson Kelly, and Zak Adelman; forwards Dmitri Yakushev, Derek Dillinger, Matt Brown, Fahd Noorizadeh, Gordie Griffith, Jesse Highboy, Mario "The Garbage Collector" Terziano, captain Sarah Cuthbertson, and Travis Lindsay.

Head coach Muck Munro runs a pretty tight ship with the Screech Owls. We learn that Muck once was a pretty good junior hockey player, but a severely broken leg had derailed those hockey dreams. While he still had a limp, Muck had turned his hockey savvy into a coaching gig with the Screech Owls, turning them into a solid team. Mr. Derringer, Derek's father, was the trainer and general manager, but performed as the equipment ninety percent of the time.

The trip to Lake Placid is like any other: the Screech Owls will be playing in a major peewee tournament against teams from both Canada and the USA. While the tests on the ice against other excellent teams will be experienced by the players, things begin to unravel off the ice in a series of strange occurrences. A father, Mr. Brown, offers a few of the players, including Travis, money for scoring during the tournament. Sarah, the team's best player, abruptly turns him down and reports him and his actions to Muck.

A game against the Portland Panthers is quite rough with the Panthers' top centerman making life difficult for Travis and his teammates. Checks are thrown, threats are issued, and the end result in the game is a 3-3 tie. Why were the Panthers playing so rough against the Screech Owls in the opening game?

Things had been strange, and began to get stranger as the tournament wore on. Before the Owls' first game, many pizza deliveries are made to Sarah's hotel room overnight, preventing the young lady to get her much-needed sleep. Her equipment has been tampered with before the second game. Her sticks go missing before the third game. Who is doing this, and why would anyone want to ruin the Screech Owls' tournament hopes?
If the Panthers' purpose was to cripple the Screech Owls, and if stopping Sarah was no longer possible, then it stood to reason that they would have to be thinking of some other way. If Mr. Brown's purpose - and Travis still couldn't see that he had one - was to hurt Sarah, who had told on him, and Muck, who had humiliated him, then he would still want to get at Muck, and the only way left for him would be to go after Dmitri or Derek or Guy or Nish or, for that matter, Travis, who certainly wasn't going to have two bad games in a row.
Mr. MacGregor's writing style in Mystery at Lake Placid is a pleasure to read in that he presents multiple twists and turns in the story to keep the reader pushing deeper in the book in order to find out what happens. While the book is geared towards readers aged nine and up, Mr. MacGregor respects the audience enough that he doesn't write down to an age group. Rather, he tells the story as it should be told. As an adult, I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and I'm already anticipating reading the next entry in the Screech Owls series.

Mystery at Lake Placid is an enjoyable read that should keep younger readers hooked on the story as Travis and his friends work through the mysteries surrounding Sarah's equipment. Older readers will appreciate the excellent writing done by Mr. MacGregor, and should find the story every bit as enjoyable as any younger reader. While there are concepts presented in the story that are geared more towards an adolescent or young teen crowd, the writing should challenge any reader aged nine and up. The story is excellent, and the mystery's ending is surprising. Because of these factors, Mystery at Lake Placid absolutely deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

Look for the Screech Owls series at your local bookstore or library, starting with Mystery at Lake Placid!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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