Outcasts of River Falls, by Jacqueline Guest

Guest Review by Hannah Grant

Sequel to Belle of Batoche, this novel follows the adventures of Kathryn Tourond through the death of her parents and the changes in her lifestyle that result from it. Kathryn was raised as an upperclass white girl, uninformed of her father’s Métis roots. Now an orphan, she is sent to live with her Aunt Belle, a dark-skinned Métis woman. Kathryn is disdained to find out that her aunt owns a small run-down home on the outskirts of the white territory, has to work hard for everything she has, and is treated differently from the white people. She is even more disgruntled when she realizes she must help with the household chores.

As time passes, Kathryn sees the struggles of the Métis and how unfair it is that they are treated as trash, but for a long time she doesn’t think of herself as one of them. She thinks of her time in River Falls as temporary and hopes to return to her school in Toronto and go on to become a lawyer.

One aspect of River Falls, however, Kathryn finds intriguing: the story of the mysterious Highwayman who brings justice and fairness to the Métis. She hopes to solve the mystery of the Highwayman, but soon finds out that her aunt is involved. When the Highwayman is framed for a murder, he and Belle could be in danger, and it is up to Kathryn to help them.

This story details the hardships faced by the Métis in the early 1900s and the changes in Kathryn’s perspective towards her people. A good read for both children and adults, this book is the tale of a girl coming to love her family for who they are and cherish a simple country life in River Falls.

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The Beat Goes On, by Ian Rankin

Recently we’ve got a number of new books in the library and more are on their way. One of our new items is a collection of the complete Inspector Rebus short stories by Ian Rankin. The Beat Goes On contains stories following Rebus’s career in the dark and dangerous corners of modern Edinburgh from his time as a young constable to his retirement; some of the stories have appeared before while others were written specifically for this collection. If you know Rebus only through the novels, this will be a welcome return to his world. If you’ve never read Ian Rankin before, this could be a good introduction to his best-loved protagonist. Come in and see what else is on our new book display!

The Midnight Tunnel, by Angie Frazier

Ook’s pick for December is a mystery novel for children. It’s set in New Brunswick in 1904, and the detective is Suzanna Snow, daughter of hotel-keepers who want her to behave the way a proper young Edwardian lady should. Suzanna, however, aspires to be a detective like her uncle in Boston, and her habit of carefully observing and taking notes on everything she sees, as well as her natural curiosity, are always getting her into trouble, because her mind is always preoccupied with more important things than her chores around the hotel. A missing fortune, a missing child, and strange goings-on lead her deeper into trouble and a clash with her uncle when he shows up to take on the case. Suzanna’s notes and comments, including tongue-in-cheek rules and advice for aspiring detectives, appear at the beginning of each chapter. This is an excellent mystery for young readers, with a suspenseful mystery to keep the pages turning.

Patricia Wentworth’s Miss Silver Mysteries

Are you a fan of Agatha Christie or what are now called “cozy” mysteries (meaning there’s not a hideous serial murder slaughter on every page)? If you’re looking for an old-fashioned murder and you haven’t heard of Patricia Wentworth, you should check out her Miss Silver mysteries. Wentworth was a writer during the golden age of mysteries, writing from 1928 to her death in 1961. She’s not generally regarded as in the very top tier, with Sayers, Christie, and Marsh, but she’s only about one rung down and she was very, very prolific. Personally, I like Miss Silver much better than Miss Marple. I find her much more plausible. It’s worrying, the way people always turn up dead when Miss Marple is in the neighbourhood. Miss Silver has the excuse of being a private detective. She is called in when people are being blackmailed, when valuable objects have gone missing, when claimants to be the long-lost heir turn up. All these situations put her on the spot when the murder happens in a fairly plausible way. So, for all those who think the female private detective in fiction is an innovation … think again. There was Miss Silver, a former governess, knitting away in her office in 1928, taking case-notes in her little notebooks, and even going undercover, although always as a gentlewoman. She is kind, brisk, perceptive, and both rational and intuitive. Her strength lies not only in her analytical mind, but in her understanding of human nature. Nowadays the Miss Silver books, especially those written around the time of the Second World War, are also an interesting bit of social history, a glimpse into how people were really living at the time and what sort of escapist reading they wanted, as the bombs fell on London. Here in Dorchester we have Out of the Past and Latter End, and there are many more available that we can bring in from other branches of the NBPLS.