A mysterious drowning opens this third installment of Kellough’s Thaddeus Lewis Mysteries as four children discover a disfigured victim washed up on the shore of Lake Ontario. It is 1847 in Southern Ontario, and Lewis’s son, Luke, wants to be a doctor. The questions of how the male victim came to such an end, why he was wearing women’s clothes, and why there was a green ribbon on his person are neatly answered by the end of this mystery. Between that beginning and ending, Luke discovers the physical and emotional challenges of healing people by volunteering with the overwhelming numbers of Irish immigrants suffering from typhoid fever. The personal connections Luke makes on his journey help him put the pieces of the puzzle together in the final denouement of this mystery.
Whereas Kellough has a clever plot here that methodically answers the questions raised and brings to our senses the depredations suffered during an epidemic, there is a sense that the tension could be sharper, the suspense edgier. Luke is a naive character who, on occasion, seems like the voice of a narrator for a mystery for young adults. Nevertheless, Kellough competently transports the reader back to the days when transport between Southern Ontario towns was tedious, communication was worse, and the suffering Irish were struggling to make a place for themselves in 19th-century Canada.