________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 24 . . . . February 27, 2015


Missing in Paradise.

Larry Verstraete.
Winnipeg, MB: Rebelight Publishing, 2014.
133 pp., trade pbk. & ebook, $9.99 (pbk.), $8.99 (ebook).
ISBN 978-0-9939390-2-0 (pbk.), ISBN 978-0-9939390-3-7 (ebook).

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Todd Kyle.

**1/2 /4


I sank into the chair and re read the letter. Missing gold. Reward. So Shipment #35 was real after all. Finding the shipment would be like winning the lottery. Dollar signs danced in my head, conjuring images of super sized TVs, a sports car when I turned 16, season tickets to NHL games for Simon and me, endless chocolate sundaes for Olivia, and maybe even a trip to Mexico for Gram and my parents.

Maybe Gramps hadn’t been so confused after all. I checked the date at the top of the letter—written over two years ago, long before Alzheimer’s claimed a sizable portion of Gramps’ brain. I read the letter again and flipped it over to check the back. A familiar scrawl snaked along the top of the page. Gramps’ handwriting. Four words, same as before.

Mildred must not know.

Suddenly, the room felt stifling hot, the air thicker and heavier than ever. I heard footsteps creak across the floor downstairs, and Fortier’s gruff voice.

“Good night, Mildred, I’ll drop by tomorrow before I leave.”


Teenager Nate, helping his grandmother with a garage sale of his late grandfather’s possessions, discovers a mysterious box hinting at the existence of a lost shipment of gold from a plane that crashed after World War II near an abandoned POW camp in a remote corner of Manitoba. Feeling compelled by messages beyond the grave, and suspecting their neighbour Fortier is also after the gold, Nate and his friend Simon surreptitiously take a bus to Paradise, Manitoba, to search the camp site. Joining forces with Marnie, a waitress who is part of a local group trying to stop a hydro electric project from flooding the historic site, they discover the truth behind the shipment, likely now submerged in a nearby lake, as well as Nate’s family’s and Fortier’s connection to the story.

     An intriguing, well paced mystery, Missing in Paradise is one of the first publications of a new Winnipeg based publisher called Rebelight, and the first fiction foray from Verstraete, a noted author of nonfiction for young people. The narration, from Nate’s point of view, does a decent job at capturing the independent, inherently suspicious, and occasionally incredulous tone of a teenage boy, and is tight and fast paced despite some descriptive phrases that sound more like a thesaurus armed adult. Nate’s haunted feelings about the mysterious, sudden death of his grandfather are well expressed, and even the slightly supernatural chills and leaden feelings he interprets as Gramps’ messages from the grave are not too unbelievable. The connection of the gold shipment to Nate’s great grandfather’s disappearance is fascinating, and Nate and Simon’s desperate and illicit journey is sure to hook young readers.

     A few awkward moments do surface, however. Nate discovers Fortier has a second, similar box, but the discovery is confusing to the reader and its significance takes long to sink in. When Nate sneaks into Fortier’s garage to investigate, he finds the man’s car trunk left open, but then laments that he doesn’t have time to close the trunk when he hears Fortier approaching and has to cover his tracks. And some readers might be uncomfortable with the way Nate constantly describes Fortier, who has had a stroke, as walking like a “gimp”, realistic though that might be at Nate’s age. In addition, the book’s trim size—larger than most children’s novels—and its small margins might not appeal to young readers who might mistake it for nonfiction.

     Still, the mystery of both the gold and Nate’s family history are satisfyingly solved, and the final scene, where Nate walks his family and the local media through the events after the crash, reading his great grandfather’s final words, bring the occasionally straying story to a convincing end. A postscript follows, revealing the real events that inspired the story.


Todd Kyle is the CEO of the Newmarket Public Library in Ontario.

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

Copyright © 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
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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