CM December 1, 
1995. Vol. II, Number 7

image Mistaken Identity.

Norah McClintock.
Richmond Hill, ON: Scholastic Canada Ltd., 1995. 183pp, paper, $4.99.
ISBN 0-590-24627-5.

Grades 9 - 12 / Ages 14 - 17.
Review by Leslie Millar.


". . . as she read the article, her eyes kept being drawn away from the type to the little photograph beside it. It was a picture of the man suspected of both the robbery and the shooting death of the man named Taglia. Zanny stared at his face, at the wild black eyebrows, the large dark eyes, the strong straight nose, the thick dark hair. She held a thumb over the top of the man's head. No wonder her father had been so pleased about his thinning hair. It was amazing how much hair loss could alter a person's appearance. Zanny looked again at the name printed under the photograph: Michael Alexander. Special agent Wiley hadn't lied to her. Her father hadn't been who she thought he was: good old Mitch Dugan. He had been a thief and murderer named Michael Alexander."

Norah McClintock has three previous publications with Scholastic Canada: Shakespeare and Legs; The Stepfather Games; and Jack's Back. Mistaken Identity is a mystery thriller featuring the dilemmas of sixteen-year-old Zanny Dugan. Zanny has spent her life on the move with her father, living on the fringe of social life in any community they happened to stop in. Zanny's protective father always made sure that she didn't make many friends.

Then it seemed that at last they might be settling down in Birk Falls, which suited Zanny fine. But her father's sudden suicide (or was it murder?), and the appearance of police, special federal agents, and an uncle she never knew she had, all threaten Zanny's tenuous new-found stability. The police and Special Agent Wiley tell Zanny that her father was not who she thought he was. Zanny sets out to find the truth about her father's past, and about her own identity as well.

This puts Zanny in the position of strong, lone heroine. The setting has a contemporary feel without any specific culture or consumer references to pin it down. There is nothing in the vocabulary or style to prevent younger readers from enjoying Mistaken Identity, but I've given it a minimum grade nine level mostly because of the violence; the body count is up to four by the end of the book.

And there is something in McClintock's treatment of a tragic event like the suspicious death of a father that left me cold. Perhaps the cliched language had something to do with it. This is a world where your stomach "churns," knees "buckle," and people "speak abruptly'' and get "sudden ideas." Mistaken Identity could probably be a successful made-for-TV movie, featuring any member from the cast of Beverly Hills 90210.

Mistaken Identity does not merit the label of literature, but as a filler for the class or school library, to encourage reading, it's harmless. Personally, I prefer Agatha Christie. For formulaic mysteries they possess a light airy quality that is lacking in Mistaken Identity.

Recommended with reservations.

Leslie Millar is a substitute teacher and volunteer in Winnipeg schools.

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Copyright © 1995 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364

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