Quill and Quire

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Hit and Run

by Norah McClintock

At first glance 15-year-old Mike McGill seems like a typical smart-aleck and slacker. But there’s more to Mike – who’s under the dubious guardianship of his Uncle Billy since an unknown hit-and-run driver killed his mother – and more to the circumstances of his mother’s death.

In this intensely involving story, Norah McClintock, winner of four Arthur Ellis awards, demonstrates her mastery of the psychological mystery genre. Her potent central theme – how frighteningly easy it is to screw up your life from a couple of mistakes and how unstoppable that downward destructive spiral can be – is played out with insight and suspense generated equally from character revelations and plot complications.

Mike’s moving first-person narration sounds authentic, and his characterization deepens as the story unfolds. Behind the attitude and antics, Mike proves to be decent, caring, and well meaning despite lapses. Like most of McClintock’s protagonists, Mike has a personal stake in solving this crime, giving his quest emotional urgency. In efficient prose, McClintock tracks Mike’s efforts to find out what really happened the night his mom died.

Mike doesn’t have much of a role model in Billy, a garage mechanic who likes to party and drink. Billy doesn’t like Mike’s friendship with history teacher John Riel, an ex-cop who investigated Mike’s mother’s death, or Riel’s encouragement of Mike’s belief that she may have been murdered. When Mike gets into trouble with the police, his life begins to fall apart. Feeling he’s got nothing to lose, ignoring Billy’s warnings, he persists in his pursuit, seeking out Riel’s help.

In this well-crafted mystery, Mike discovers not just whodunit, but also, in an inevitable rite of passage, that the adults in his life, just like himself, are very human, fallible, and vulnerable.