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The Deep End Gang

by Peggy Dymond Leavey

This new mystery by Peggy Dymond Leavey, her fifth, has a crisp, lively plot and just enough quirkiness to give the story an edge. For example, the name of this ad-hoc gang – three twelvish kids named Martin, Granger, and Holly – comes from their favourite hangout: the deep end of an empty swimming pool that Holly’s father is one day going to repair.

Martin, the book’s narrator, is an army brat who has learned to cope with frequent moves by making friends quickly and never getting too attached to them. That’s sort of a strength; his weakness is an attention-getting tendency to hyperbole. But his new friends aren’t perfect either: Holly escapes into books and Granger throws up under stress.

The subdivision Martin’s family has moved into is built on the grounds of an old estate, and the mystery centres around its abandoned mansion. Martin can’t help noticing that it is under observation around the clock by his unfriendly next-door neighbour. One night Martin sees lights in the supposedly empty house, and the deep end gang goes into action.

Leavey’s previous book, Sky Lake Summer, was nominated for several prizes including the Silver Birch Award. Her new book chugs along economically, but it’s driven less by the slight mystery than by the gang’s emerging relationship. The characters are engaging, and the backdrop of small-town Ontario, including parents, sister, dog, and neighbours, is deftly sketched. A subplot revolving around Martin’s sister’s unhappiness at being uprooted yet again explores the more lasting theme of dealing with repeated dislocations during the growing-up years.