Prairie Fire Review - Danger in Dead
Reviewed by: Donna Gamach
Danger in Dead Man's Mine by Saskatoon author Dave Glaze is the third book in the series 1912: The Mackenzie Davis Files. The previous books-- The Light-fingered Gang and The Last Flight of the Birdman --introduced twelve-year-old Mackenzie Davis and his friend Albert. The pair lives in Saskatoon and both books take place there in 1912. The new adventure is set in Lethbridge. Mackenzie, his mother and one-year-old sister Nellie have gone there to help Aunt Betsy, Mrs. Davis's sister, who is expecting a baby. Mackenzie is to help care for Nellie and help his cousins around the house, but he also has free time to explore the coulees and parks around Lethbridge.' Mackenzie expects an uneventful visit but things don't stay that way. Aunt Betsy isn't well but can't afford a doctor to help with the birth. Uncle Jimmy is off work because he, too, is sick--possibly with the 'black lung' disease from his years working in the mines. Mackenzie's older cousin Francis has been helping, but then disappears after a disagreement with his father. Ruth, aged 12, helps out her mother, while John Walter, aged 8, tries to find a way to earn money. Unbeknownst to the others, John Walter and a friend are hired by a con man to dig coal out of an abandoned mine. When the two boys become trapped, it's up to Mackenzie to figure out why they haven't come home and where they might be. As in the author's previous books, the social history of the time and place are carefully worked in. There are plenty of interesting details, especially about mining during that period. Readers will learn about the dangers of a 'bump' and the 'after damp,' which can sweep in and kill trapped miners, and about strikes by the miners to improve working conditions. They will learn how men from eastern Canada arrived to help with harvests, and the prejudice against some immigrants. Especially interesting are details about the High Level Bridge, completed in 1909, and still the longest and highest of its kind in the world. Suspense carries the story along, such as when a rattlesnake is about to strike Mackenzie, when Mackenzie is trapped in the path of an oncoming train, and when John Walter is fearful of being overcome by poisonous gases. The book is intended for children in grades four to seven, and I believe they will enjoy it, but I liked it, too. Teachers might find it a useful addition to a study of the early 1900s. Recently it was nominated for a Saskatchewan Book Award (2009) in the children's literature category. This is the third book in the series, but it's not necessary to have read the first two, as it's a completely separate adventure. Readers will likely want to go back to read the earlier books, where Mackenzie and his friends first solved a pickpocketing crime at a visiting circus, then dealt with a string of thefts and a famous stunt pilot performing at the Saskatoon Exhibition. Donna Gamache is the author of Spruce Woods Adventure (Compascore Manitoba) as well as many short stories for both children and adults.