Children's LiteratureOne in a series called the "Tom and Liz Austen Mysteries," Spirit in the Rainforest is reminiscent of all the formula mysteries so well loved by readers of a certain age. Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, the John Bellairs' books--all share similar characteristics--lots of action, unusual or exotic settings, shallow characterization, pedestrian prose. The plot keeps on truckin' however, and that's what many readers want. Wilson has set this story on the west coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, a backdrop that allows for some useful information about environmental issues. Clean-cut teen Tom Austen is spending the summer with family friends in Ucluelet, a small seaside town. Nikki, the older daughter in the household and a member of Greenpeace, the radical environmental organization, encourages him to protest the planned clear-cutting of Nearby Island. The island's owner, Vernya Tosca, wants to sell the rainforest's valuable lumber to maintain her luxurious lifestyle and keep her fast-spending husband, Major Tosca. Tom, an amateur detective, soon finds out that Vernya once ran an exclusive boarding school on Nearby Island, but a tragic scandal forced her to close. There's lots more, and although the characters' motivations don't make much sense and the relationships between the adults and teens are unbelievable, the mystery is satisfyingly mysterious and there are no slow spots. 2001, Orca Book Publishers, $4.99. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: Miriam Rinn
Meet the Author
Eric Wilson is the author of eight suspense novels that explore earth's tension between heaven and hell. He lives in Nashville with his wife and two daughters.
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