Next month will see the American debut of the children's novel The Mystery of the Martello Tower by Canadian writer Jennifer Lanthier. Jennifer is my cousin; our grandmothers were sisters in a large Irish-Canadian family. Almost every summer while I was growing up my parents would make the eight hour drive from our home in Maryland to Ontario. My father's relatives had some cottages at a lake, close to the old family homestead. There we would visit with various aunts, uncles and cousins. My siblings and I always looked forward to spending time with those distant cousins who were close to us in age. Although there were some things about which we disagreed (and still do) the similarities and shared interests outweighed the differences. We found our cousins to be bright and creative; overall we had more in common with them than we did with many of our peers in school. Reading Jennifer's book, which is about a group of cousins who have a summer adventure, brought back many past summers to me so that I laughed and cried.
The Mystery of the Martello Tower tells of a sister and brother in modern times who embark on an odyssey rich in discovery and mischief. There are layers of mystery which young Hazel and Ned must uncover, from an international art theft scandal to the enigmas of their own past. I was reminded a little of old fairy tales, such as Hansel and Gretel, in which children would find themselves in a desperate situation but escape through their wits and ingenuity. Hazel and Ned leave the big city, where they are being raised by a single parent in rather isolated circumstances. They journey to the region of the Thousand Islands and encounter a lively extended family. The bringing together of the long lost relatives is the catalyst for mysteries being solved, as well as for the healing of old wounds and memories.
The characters spring to life in the first few paragraphs as the story moves rapidly along into danger and intrigue. The author is able to deftly see the world from a youthful point of view, conveying the fears, the hopes and the boundless energy of that brief time in life. Recommended for ages ten through fourteen, it is a grand book to bring along on a summer adventure. Share