Quill and Quire

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Dead in the Water

by Robin Stevenson

Short, speedy, and sportive, this formula mystery/action story takes readers to the northeast end of Vancouver Island by yacht. Simon has signed up for a week-long sailing course aboard 36-foot Jeopardy with fellow teens Olivia, Joey, and Blair. On the first night of the course, their instructor has them moor in an isolated bay near a glossy cabin cruiser. When Olivia notices abalone shells on the cruiser’s deck, she’s sure they’ve happened upon poachers of that endangered species. Later, Simon and Olivia board the cruiser in the dead of night – and their snooping is almost disastrous. Not until the four teens work together as a team do they outrun the criminals.

Stevenson’s experience with the sea and sailing shines through in this otherwise generic adventure story, which is low on character but enlivened by a little marine biology, an uncomfortably convincing description of the symptoms of seasickness, and some exciting sailing. Stevenson is at her best in the fine details of the sailing manoeuvres, and although she is no dab hand at nature writing (“the water was so still it was shiny” is as lyrical as she gets), she effectively evokes the heights and depths of a wind-tossed seascape. In short, this tale does what the Orca Sports series aims to do, with the added flair of its nautical setting.