Sunday, November 16, 2008
Ferguson, Alane. 1994. Poison. New York: Bradbury Press. ISBN: 9780027345285.
Chelsea is a typical teenager. She wants to lie around and relax during the summer but is forced to work at her dad's company, Symthe Towers. She does not know her father well as he is a workaholic, and she misses both her deceased mother and her stepmother who walked out of her life without a goodbye. These emotions and conflicts play right into the mystery when Chelsea overhears two men discussing moving something, money, and the police. Intrigued by what she hears, Chelsea convinces her friend Amber to go along with her to find out what the men are hiding. What she finds is her worst nightmare--her stepmother lies dead in a cave near the water. She and her friend go to the police, who later cannot find a body at the crime scene. Chelsea and Amber are left to solve the mystery on their own.
This book is a light, quick mystery that goes beyond the "who did it" to dealing with relationships. Chelsea misses her mom so desperately that she is thrilled when her new stepmother Diane pays attention to her. Although Diane is much younger than her father, Chelsea instantly likes Diane's independence and confidence. Chelsea believes Diane loves her when in reality Diane is isolating her from her best friend Amber and even her father. When Diane walks out of their lives and her father will not answer any questions, Chelsea becomes even more alone. Ferguson develops the relationship between Chelsea and her father throughout the book. In the beginning, her father was cold when asked about Diane and stubborn about making his daughter work her way up the corporate ladder. Chelsea acts impulsively without even thinking about her father and his feelings. By the end of the book, her father shares his feelings about Diane with Chelsea, and he is the first person she calls when she goes to the police station after being threatened. This character development makes up for the small holes in the mystery part of the book.
The reader knows something is not quite right with Diane by the clues about how she has pulled Chelsea away from her friends. While Chelsea does not believe Amber when she tells her this, it is obvious to the reader. The reader just does not know how involved Diane is until the end. The most obvious hole in the mystery is that there were not enough clues as to who the killer really was. Ferguson drops some clues that lead to the father as Chelsea wonders if her father is guilty of murder, but he is quickly ruled out. Readers like to solve the mystery along with the protagonist, so more clues should have lead the reader to suspect Diane was involved in fraud with Peter Karsch and Dr. Marcroft. Instead, the reader has no idea who these men are until the murder is solved. This jump in information takes some of the fun out of reading and solving the mystery, yet Chelsea's renewed relationship with her friend and father make up for this hole in the plot.
School Library Journal: The unlikely plot, sketchy setting, and minimal character development keep the book from being deeply engaging, while the few clues offered make it difficult for readers to solve the puzzle independently. Despite these flaws, however, this is an entertaining, light mystery. Fans of the genre will enjoy the chatty, contemporary tone and be attracted by the provocative title (a reference to Diane's favorite perfume and, as Chelsea discovers, a clue to her personality).Lisa Dennis, The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
Publishers Weekly: The tale is not complete without Mr. Smythe's brief imprisonment, a high-tech stalking, the revelation of Diane's life of crime and a riveting if far-fetched confrontation with a would-be murderer. Product names, dropped in abundance, serve to define characters, while their emotions are most often telegraphed by the state of their clothes: "His suit had pulled to one side... and tears had left dime-sized marks on his powder blue shirt." Ages 12-up. Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
http://www.amazon.com/Poison-Alane-Ferguson/dp/0027345289/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1226875113&sr=1-6 (Accessed November 16, 2008)