Star Phoenix Review - Tunnels of Terror

Reviewed by: StarPhoenix Review

Saskatoon StarPhoenix

February 16, 2002


Tunnels of Terror

Mary Harelkin Bishop


Readers who have been checking the McNally Robinson best–seller list…every week might well be asking, what's all the fuss about these kids' books about the Moose Jaw tunnels?

Well, the answer is that two years ago Saskatoon author Mary Harelkin Bishop produced one of the fastest–selling juvenile fiction titles Coteau Books has ever published with Tunnels of Time. That book was number one on McNally Robinson's list of the top 10 best–selling children's titles for 2001, even outselling the Harry Potter books. 

And Harelkin Bishop came out with a sequel, Tunnels of Terror, last year, and guess what – it made number two on the list before the end of the year. (Arthur Slade, another Saskatoon writer, placed third with his award–winning novel Dust.)

I'm betting that it's not just the youngsters who are making these books so popular. There are many adults who won't be able to resist the author's special talent for creating suspense, together with the possibilities evoked by those old tunnels under the streets of Moose Jaw.

 A tourist–eye view of the tunnels is what inspired Harelkin Bishop in the first place. She wrote the outline for Tunnels of Time the night after she saw the eerie underground network. She introduced 13–year–old Andrea Bishop in that bok.

Andrea, who is from Saskatoon, was an unwilling guest at a family wedding in Moose Jaw when a bizarre accident left her unconscious and time–traveling back to the roaring ‘20s. in that story she barely escaped the clutches of Scarface, an American bootlegger who used the tunnels to ply his illicit trade. 

In Tunnels of Terror, Andrea, 14 now, visits Moose Jaw again, still having nightmares about her first experience in the tunnels. This time the action focuses on Tony, Andrea's nine–year–old brother. He has just found out he's diabetic and has to have shots twice a day. When he gets his hands on Andrea's diary and read about her adventures in the tunnels, he has to see for himself.

Andrea is supposed to be looking after Tony but she's furious with him for invading her privacy so she leaves him on his own for a while. Of course he finds his way to the tunnel entrance she described in her diary, and so begins his travels back to the days when the city was a hotbed for bootleggers, dishonest cops and corrupt officials.

Andrea fears for his life because he has to have help injecting his insulin. The plot thickens when she returns to the tunnels to search for him and finds evidence of a major crime involving the whole night shift of the city's police force. 

Harelkin Bishop spins the suspense out almost from the first page, when the sister and brother are supposed to be welcomed by their grandparents but arrive to find their house mysteriously deserted.

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