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Book Reviews

The Fifth Rule

by Don Aker

In Don Aker’s 2004 novel, The First Stone, Halifax teenager Reef Kennedy serves time as a young offender after throwing a rock from an overpass and wounding a young girl named Leeza. As part of his community service, Reef is assigned to her hospital ward – where the two fall in love, each unaware of the other’s identity and their connection.

In the sequel, Reef, after two years in Calgary, is back in Halifax for the funeral of his former social worker and mentor. Despite the peace bond imposed on him by Leeza’s mother, and under the watchful eye of both the media and a political opportunist, the now adult and reformed Reef finds his thoughts – and his feet ­– returning to the girl he harmed and then helped to heal. For her part, Leeza is torn between loyalty to her mother’s wishes and her feelings for Reef.

Aker eases readers into the narrative by gently weaving the backstory of the earlier novel into the first few chapters. Likewise, both Reef and Leeza are reintroduced on their own before their romance is rekindled.

The narrative back and forth between the two leads is well-played, bringing the tensions of the past to the surface and setting the stage for the unfolding drama. Aker’s sure and swift style drives the story with vigor, sweeping Reef and Leeza through a series of incidents before bringing the story to a resounding climax.

Energy does not always equal emotion, however, and at times the book leaves readers yearning for a greater glimpse into the characters’ inner lives. Still, The Fifth Rule is a fine and satisfying follow-up.