June 09, 2016


by Natasha Deen
Great Plains Teen Fiction
232 pp.
Ages 13+
May 2016

Someone was pounding at the front door at 10:30 p.m., and common sense said not to answer.  Then again, I see the dead, live with a ghost, and was dating a supernatural being who transported souls.  Common sense may have been in my neighbourhood, but it wasn’t on any street I lived. (pg. 7)
Natasha Deen grabs readers and thrusts them into Gatekeeper with this opening, not unlike her opener to its prequel Guardian (Great Plains Teen Fiction, 2014),  in which 17-year-old Maggie reveals her knack for seeing the dead and helps solve the murder of Serge Popov with whom she now has become a guardian to help the dead transition into the next world.  Along with supernatural boyfriend Craig, a ferrier of the dead, and her best friend Nell, as well as her caring father Hank and his girlfriend, Sheriff Nancy, who all know of her gift, Maggie has found herself at the centre of more than one mystery in their small town of Dead Falls.  And Gatekeeper places her in the role of sleuth and ghost-communicator once again.

That knocking at the door is the wealthy Mrs. Pierson, frantic over the disappearance of her and Dr. Paul Pierson’s six-year-old daughter, Rori, and looking for Sheriff Nancy.  Maggie, Serge and Craig with Rori’s babysistter Nell go to help in the search and help locate the little girl on the brink of death.  But after Serge uses his energy to get her heart beating, he and Maggie meet the newly-dead ghost of Kent Meagher, former all-around amazing Dead Falls student and current med student at the University of Alberta who is oblivious and confused about his death.  And this is the murder mystery at the heart of Gatekeeper.

But Gatekeeper is more than a whodunit because no one knows Kent is dead, not the least of which are his separated parents whose antagonistic relationship destroyed the family and left them financially ruined.  Kent’s concern for his mother is overwhelming and brings back a lot of memories for Serge about his own family dynamics, his mother and his death, but demonstrates the newly-developed empathy that makes Serge such a key and now likeable character.  By way of some careful research and snooping, Serge and Maggie discover that a lot of people are keeping secrets, including Kent, and that Kent’s determination to be a doctor may be at the heart of a series of mysteries, including his own death and rampant vandalism in Dead Falls.  And, of course, there’s the dead people that add a suprisingly humourous and horrifying combination of subplots to Natasha Deen’s story.  (Be prepared for a nasty legion of souls called The Family who cannot find peace and is looking for additional souls to ingest.)

Gatekeeper, like its predecessor, is completely an edge-of-your-seat read, though I found that I looked forward to the witty dialogue as much as the paranormal elements which Natasha Deen flawlessly embeds in her plot.  I’ve always thought Norah McClintock was the queen of YA crime fiction but I think Natasha Deen has developed into a princess of YA paranormal murder mysteries.  With her multifaceted plotlines and great, great characters who are neither perfect nor surreal (though they may be otherworldly), Natasha Deen has become one of my go-to YACanLit authors for spooky whodunits with a smidgen of romance.  Consider them the young adult equivalent of Scooby-Doo: fun sleuthing with the ever-helpful Maggie and Serge and the gang. Gatekeeper is one more mystery solved, and I look forward to more.


  1. Thank you so much for the review—I'm thrilled you enjoyed the book!

  2. Great review of a creative writer!