January 23, 2017

The Best Mistake Mystery (The Great Mistake Mysteries, Book 1)

by Sylvia McNicoll
120 pp.
Ages 9-13
January 2017

"I know that if you relax enough to stretch, reach, and risk, the twists along your path will lead to something amazing." - Sylvia McNicoll

Student Stephen Nobel sees mistakes in every turn of his path, past and present, anticipating more in his future.  His days as a Grade 7 student are logged as a compendium of mistakes, though Sylvia McNicoll only shares three consecutive days, of ten mistakes each, in The Best Mistake Mystery, demonstrating that a whole lot can happen in three days, both gaffes and opportunities, depending on how you look at them.

His dad’s new business, Noble Dog Walking, has given Stephen the opportunity to regularly walk the Bennetts’ two dogs: Ping, a small Jack Russell, and Pong, a tall greyhound.
And we’re off–like a wagon pulled by a mismatched team, a horse and a pony.” (pg. 18)
Just like for the dogs, for whom every step is a new adventure of sounds and smells and textures, Stephen becomes witness to a myriad of happenings which will all become part of a bigger mystery or two.  He finds a bag of poop lodged in a tree.  He meets up with an annoying and relentlessly questioning classmate, Renée, with whom he learns that an earlier school drill was actually a response to a bomb threat.  Ping tackles a skateboarder.  Pong urinates on some bricks being worked by a contractor, Mr. Mason.  Then the teen sees the principal, Mrs. Watier, in the orange VW Beetle he’d seen their former custodian Mr. Sawyer driving earlier.  Later Stephen observes that same VW driving around the school’s parking lot late at night.

The mysteries begin to mount when school is cancelled the next day because that orange car had crashed into the school overnight and, because of a brick on the accelerator, filled the school with fumes.  Worse, the car belongs to Renée’s older brother, Attila, who is questioned, though he denies any role, since his car was at the high school auto shop.  The twists and turns of who did what, who was where and why something happened become a full-blown pot boiler with threatening texts, an impending wedding, a dognapping and ransom demand, and a whole lot of snooping, with and without dogs in tow. 

I love a good mystery and The Best Mistake Mystery is a great one.  Sylvia McNicoll throws in so many red herrings and suspects that readers will be changing their hunches as to who did it and why repeatedly.  Just like the winding neighbourhood through which Stephen walks Ping and Pong, a lovable but unlikely duo of canine champions, The Best Mistake Mystery is bursting with characters, storylines, life lessons and dogs. And readers will love all of that.  

But personally, I adore Sylvia McNicoll’s message, and the premise for this new series, The Great Mistake Mysteries, that mistakes are opportunities that enrich our lives.  They may certainly feel like challenges, even curses, but ultimately most mistakes should be considered serendipitous, providing chances to learn and grow and tweak our lives for the better.  And, if you solve a mystery or two in the process, all the better.

Check back tomorrow for my interview with author Sylvia McNicoll about The Best Mistake Mystery and her new series, The Great Mistake Mysteries (cute logo posted below).

Also, get in on one of the book launches for The Best Mistake Mystery this week for a chance to get a signed copy of the book, and maybe share a doggie treat with your own canine best friend. Details here. 

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