________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 24 . . . . February 24, 2012


A Winter Kill. (Rapid Reads).

Vicki Delany.
Victoria, BC: Raven Books/Orca, 2012.
111 pp., pbk., $9.95
ISBN 978-1-55469-956-8.

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.

Review by Darleen Golke.

***½ /4

Reviewed from Advance Review Copy.



She was dressed in jeans and scruffy running shoes and a bright blue jacket. Threads escaped from an old tear in the jacket sleeve. Her hands were bare even though the temperature was well below freezing. She must have been very cold. Before she died.

Her hands were the color of skim milk, white touched with blue. Her jeans were unzipped and pulled down past her hips. I could see the lacy trim of a pink thong. But the jeans were still on, the girl’s legs together. Had this been an attempted rape? It so, it had not gone very far.

Had something, or someone, scared him away?

It wasn’t me. This girl had been dead for more than a few minutes.

I looked into her face and saw something familiar. Her skin was clean of makeup and her blond hair shone in the beam of my flashlight.

She was local. I’d seen her around. I was pretty sure she went to Prince Edward District High School.

At the welcome sound of sirens I let out a breath I hadn’t known I was holding in. Coming my way. Police car first, then an ambulance. I wanted to lower the girl’s lids over her bulging eyes, but knew not to disturb the scene. I pushed myself to my feet and lifted my flashlight. I shone the beam of light across the field to the road, letting them know where I was.

Nicole Patterson, a 24-year-old six-month rookie with the Ontario Provincial Police in Prince Edward County, discovers a teenage girl’s body in a field outside of town. It’s not the first dead body she had seen, and so she follows procedure and calls the appropriate professionals. As the investigation progresses, her instincts lead her to doubt the lead detective’s theory that the victim’s father, an abusive drunkard, killed his daughter because she was “four-months pregnant” and had a bad reputation. Nicole observes, “This is the twenty-first century. No one cares about a girl’s reputation. The Greys don’t have a reputation worth protecting anyway.” As Nicole conducts her own unofficial investigation, two portraits of the victim, Maureen, emerge: a promiscuous “cheap slut” from a welfare family; a kind, smart, hardworking nice girl who helped other teens at the local drop-in centre for youth. Recalling her own experiences as a high school student and a girl not unlike the victim, Nicole muses, “Maybe now I was trying to make up for the harm I’d done Alison by seeking justice for Maureen.”

      At the high school, an athletic young man stands before the “flower-and-teddy-bear decorated locker” looking forlorn. Nicole later sees him at the victim’s graveside, his eyes wet, yet he denies involvement: “I hardly knew her. She was a girl from the school and the youth center. She was good with computers. Helped me out once when my laptop crashed. I’m sorry she’s dead. That’s all.” The victim had left her abusive home, and the young Constable discovers she had been staying with a friend who admits, “I liked her. She was tough, but smart.” The more Nicole learns about Maureen’s life, the clearer it becomes that someone did care about Maureen’s reputation and was willing to take whatever steps necessary to keep her away from his son and his son’s promising future. She shares her conclusions with the detective in charge of the investigation who, surprisingly, allows her to participate in the interview and final solution to the murder case.

      An addition to Raven Books’ “Rapid Reads” series, “short novels and non-fiction books for adult readers” that are “intended for a diverse audience, including ESL students, reluctant readers, adults who struggle with literacy and anyone who wants an high-interest quick read,” A Winter Kill is a fast-paced, easy-to-read, contemporary story. Delany, a creative mystery and crime novelist with the “Smith & Weston” and “Klondike Mystery” series to her credit, successfully contributes her first entry to “Rapid Reads.” Although plot driven, the story manages to touch on contemporary issues, like the casual cruelty of teenagers, dysfunctional families, teen pregnancy, and parental ambitions. Complete with a thoughtful and observant protagonist, a sympathetic victim, varied supporting characters, a snappy “whodunit” plot, short, easy-to-read sentences (RL 2.8), some graphic yet realistic language, and enough detail to engage readers, this quick read fits the series well and should appeal to an audience accustomed to the pace of television crime dramas.

Highly Recommended.

Darleen Golke, once upon a time a teacher-librarian, writes from her home in Abbotsford, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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