Saturday 8 December 2012

343. Dead Harry by Ken Catran

Dead Harry by Ken Catran
Published December 2012 Scholastic

From the publisher:
Sam's best friend Harry is working on a school assignment about refugees from the Balkans, and comes across a photo of the school caretaker as a war criminal. The next thing he knows, Harry is dead and has returned as a ghost to help Sam solve the mystery of his murder. The boys, with the help of the class geek Anna, uncover an operation centred at their school, involving giving war criminals protection in exchange for big bucks.

When I think of the name Ken Catran, I think of historical fiction, primarily war/soldier stories.  At first glance you might think that this book is a massive departure from the norm, but as you start reading the story you realise there is an element of war in this story too.

I have probably read more murder mysteries this year than ever before, in the children’s book genre.  It could be seen as slightly disturbing, but I mould say that I am actually a big fan, mainly because there hasn’t been much of it before.  For those of you worried about the grizzly-ness of the murders, there isn’t any. 

Sam’s best friend Harry dies suddenly one night in front of his computer.  The verdict is that Harry suffered a heart attack.  Sam is devastated, his best friend is dead, so imagine his surprise when Harry turns up at his own funeral.  At first Sam thinks he is going crazy, and he struggles to believe that what he is seeing is real. 

When Harry tells Sam to visit his house in the hope that he can find some clues, Harry suddenly blurts out ‘murdered’,  and Sam knows there is more to Harry’s death than anyone suspects.  What unfolds is Sam’s pursuit in finding out who is behind Harry’s death, and in doing this he puts himself at risk, and his own life is threatened.

It quickly comes to light that the groundskeeper is a wanted war criminal, figuring that out was easy, it’s harder to find out who else is involved, and it’s looking more likely that it’s someone at school.

If a book about a murdering war criminal can be funny, then this one is.  As Harry is trying to come to terms with his ghostliness, he plays a few practical jokes involving floating eyeballs and disembodied heads.  There’s also humour in Sam’s relationship with the ghostly Harry, as he is often found talking to himself (Harry’s invisible to everyone else) and Harry also puts Sam into some very tricky situations.

Who will like this book: Boys and girls age 10+
Read it if you like: 
Poppy Fields Mystery #10: The Will to Live by Tanya Landman

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