The Case of Windy Lake
The Case of Windy Lake
They walked past crumbling homes; built according to government plans, erected by the lowest bidders. The only variety in the houses was the decade they were built and their state of repair. That stretched from condemn-able to could-use-a-good-paint.
In time, they turned off the road and down a trail that entered a smattering of forest. The houses of the reserve were scattered along a stretch of highway and not in the neat rows of the Métis half of the community or the trailer park. It was not uncommon to come across a patch of wilderness between neighbourhoods on the rez. In the shadows of the thin, but tall, pines the temperature dropped to a chill. The kids walked a little quicker.
A scream cut the air.
Otter stopped. “Hear that?”
A woman’s angry outburst once again sliced through the quiet of the bush.
The Mighty Muskrats looked at each other and then took off running.
The Case of Windy Lake is set on a reserve in the Windy Lake First Nation. While the exact location of this place is not specified, it reads like a fictional analogue to the author’s own home nation, the Misipawistik Cree Nation in Treaty 5 territory on the shores of Lake Winnipeg. The reader is introduced to a foursome who are known around the reserve as The Mighty Muskrats. The Mighty Muskrats are four cousins: Chickadee is the only girl and is the computer wiz of the group; Otter is keen to learn his people’s ways and traditions and has a close relationship to their grandfather; Sam is smart and often leads the group; and Atim recently moved from the city to the reserve. Together, they explore their community and the land surrounding it, sometimes solving mysteries and sometimes getting into a bit of mischief.
In this novel, the four cousins get caught up helping their Uncle Levi, an officer in the Windy Lake Police Service, investigate the disappearance of Dr. Troy Pixton, an archaeologist hired by a local mining company. While the Muskrats investigate the disappearance of the archaeologist, their older cousin, Denise, is busy protesting the mining company by chaining herself to their pier. The four cousins explore the far side of the lake, meet numerous interesting local characters and come to understand their older cousin’s quest to preserve her community.
While The Case of Windy Lake is intended for a middle grade audience and the core mystery plot is interesting and engaging, the book also incorporates many First Nations issues and themes, including conflicts with resource extraction industries, government neglect and indifference, and concerns over the preservation of traditional ways of life. The Case of Windy Lake will appeal to fans of mysteries and stories of kids who go off on adventures with no adults around. It will also introduce readers to a setting and a perspective that are still uncommon in middle grade fiction.
Tara Stieglitz is a librarian at MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta.