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From Charlie’s Point of View

by Richard Scrimger

From Charlie’s Point of View, the new novel from Cobourg, Ontario, writer Richard Scrimger, occupies the middle ground between the work of Gordon Korman and the teenage detective TV show Veronica Mars. A solid mystery with charming, occasionally sassy characters, a good sense of humour, and a remarkable stylistic sense, it’s a winner.

Thirteen-year-old Charlie Fairmile, blind since birth, is just starting Grade 7 when his father is arrested. Roger Fairmile is suspected of being the Stocking Bandit, who has been attacking and robbing ATMs for several months. To help clear his father, and to prevent his having to move to (horrors!) Winnipeg, Charlie and his best friend Bernadette (Bernie) Lyall set out to solve the crime themselves. With the assistance of new friend Lewis Ellieff, and the recurring intercession of the enigmatic Gideon (whose arrival is cued by choral music), the friends discover the identity of the Stocking Bandit while addressing such issues as bullying, alcoholism, poverty, and parental conflict.

Scrimger has a keen ear for the conversational tone of both teen and adult characters. He not only writes realistic dialogue, he explores how dialogue is situationally affected (compare the classroom bravado of the insecure Lewis with his conversations with his parents, for example). The book also has a keen stylistic awareness, subtly shifting perspectives from character to character. The most affecting shift comes when Scrimger writes from Charlie’s point of view, revealing a nuanced, detailed world free of visual cues. It’s unsettling and effective.

Although older readers – familiar with the tricks, tropes, and red herrings of the genre – will find most of the plotting predictable, this novel is genuinely suspenseful and will surprise even seasoned readers. From Charlie’s Point of View is a perfect introduction to adult mysteries and a reminder of Scrimger’s considerable gifts as a writer.