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Colleen Drippe'

Mystery at Miner's Creek

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MYSTERY AT MINER'S CREEK gets reviewed:

Author Colleen Drippe' adds MYSTERY AT MINER'S CREEK, a novel for adolescent Catholic readers, to her two previous books for children -- THE LITTLE BLUE HOUSE and its sequel CHRISTMAS AT THE LITTLE BLUE HOUSE. A short novel, MYSTERY surpasses and distinguishes itself from young readers' detective pulp such as Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys by putting the narrative of a crime's solution at the service of important themes such as obedience, rash judgment, forgiveness. Even tough social issues such as animal rights and justice for illegal immigrants appear for the reader's consideration. That's a lot to pack into a novel for adolescents without becoming preachy, but Mystery succeeds.

The story begins when Mr. Steiner, a free lance artist, moves the family to a run down ranch near the Mexican border, to help his children grow up "straight and strong". The Steiner brood of six roll up their sleeves to help restore the ranch's "fixer upper" hacienda. Tension in the family is created when their cousin, a pampered city-slicker, joins them for a prolonged visit. Next, an elusive Mexican boy warns that their new ranch is "an evil place". Enter a lovable stray dog, an intimidating sheriff, who accuses the innocent Steiner boys of theft, and MYSTERY unfolds.

The book is especially good in its portrayal of Mr. Steiner, a wise and firm (but certainly not harsh) head of the home; in contrast to our age's de rigeur emasculation young people's literature, Father provides loving correction and sound guidance through the minor crises that build toward an exciting climax; he also exhibits confidence in his children, especially his older sons. Mrs. Steiner is a strong woman with well honed domestic skills, unflappable in the face of a pre-electric house, six children to feed (and educate), and an ungracious house guest. All in all, she is a woman whom contemporary feminists will dislike intensely -- can we say anything nicer?

The presence of competent adults who are wiser than the children is another large difference between MYSTERY and pulp mysteries for the young. The pulps routinely either leave adults out of the narrative entirely, or portray them as buffoonish obstacles to smart adolescent sleuths. The Steiner boys do not set out to do what the competent authorities cannot do; rather, they are embroiled in danger because they are led there by circumstances resulting as much from faulty judgment calls as from sacrificial charity; they do not so much "solve" the crime as they become the occasion of its solution.

The Faith's Mysteries, woven into the plot's own mystery, are the quiet stuff of indirect evangelism. MYSTERY AT MINER'S CREEK, and the sequels we hope to see, should become staples on the Catholic bookshelf and given as gifts to the non-Catholics.

Reviewed by Linda Robinson

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MYSTERY AT MINER'S CREEK

This, my first book for older children, is about to make its long-awaited debut from Little Flowers Family Publishers. They expect to begin shipping copies in early March.

I had a lot of fun writing this book. You might say this is a step in the reconquista of genre fiction. That is a dream of mine -- to see all children's (and grown up's too, come to think of it) writing retaken for the faith. And if you can't baptise it, then it isn't worth writing.

I know what was available to my children as they were growing up. There were good books and then there were better books. Many classics only needed a touch here and there to make them just right for my children. This is easy to do when reading something out loud. The Little House on the Prairie books for instance, could be made Catholic with just a few changes, easily worked in while reading to the children. Same for the Carolyn Haywood books and many others. But when your children start reading on their own -- then what is available? Not enough.

So here I go, plunging into the world of mystery. To get ready for this book, I read and reread a stack of old Hardy Boys' mysteries and another stack of Nancy Drew's. I mean the OLD ones, before they got dumbed down or worse. And then I sat back and thought for a while, letting everything settle, you might say, until my own story began to tell itself. And believe me, it was fun!

I did a certain amount of research for this and even went so far as to consult a Spanish speaking person about a name for the dog. And I drew on my own memories of climbing about in deserts. And I've cooked on a woodstove and lived without running water and travelled with a van full of children (and animals), so you can be sure you are getting first hand descriptions of things. I have not, however, been captured by car thieves or had to crawl out of a collapsed mine shaft. Some things must come from the imagination.

I include here a link to the publisher. I don't know if she has the cover put in or not, but there is ordering information.

Link to Mystery