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The missing beehive mystery

Two grandchildren must live without their social media at their grandpa’s but get caught up looking for his stolen beehives.

June 20th, 2023

Rachelle Delaney has authored nine middle-grade novels. Photo by Claudette Carracedo.

Leo and his sister Lizzie “bumble” around with grandpa’s friends looking for the beehive thief and in the process, learn more about each other.

Review by Heidi Greco

Eleven going on twelve-year-old Leo and his nine-year-old sister Lizzie are less than thrilled when their parents tell them they’ll be leaving their condo in Toronto for a visit to their grandfather who lives off BC’s coast on Heron Island in Rachelle Delaney’s 9th novel, The Big Sting (Tundra $22.99).

Recognizable as a stand-in for several of BC’s Gulf Islands, the fictional Heron Island is full of back-to-the-land types and, shocking as it proves to be for Leo, their grandfather’s home turns out to be a place that doesn’t have any internet connection. Considering that both kids are reliant on Wi-Fi for games and communications, the visit looks as though it could be quite a challenge for them. It doesn’t help that their grandfather seems like such a grumpy person.

On the first morning of their stay in their grandfather’s nearly hundred-year-old house, Leo wakes to the sound of a “grumble-huff” and wonders whether it’s an animal or a groaning from within the walls. Then, when the sound is accompanied by stomping sounds, Leo concludes that it “could only mean one thing: the grumble-huffing animal was Grandpa himself. Because Grandpa didn’t walk. He stomped.” Of course, as things turn out, we learn that their grandfather has his reasons for this façade.

The brother-and-sister duo have barely landed on the island when their parents decide to leave for greener pastures—in their case, a spa at nearby Porpoise Island. This means the kids will be left behind and will have learn how to get along with Grandpa.

In some ways, it’s a bit of a blessing. Not only does it nudge the kids into getting to know their grandfather better, it frees them of the pigeon holes their between-jobs tech-professional dad has placed them in. Thanks to a personality-predictive website, he’s determined that Lizzie is an “Adventurer” while Leo feels stuck in the role given him, “Auditor.” He can’t get very excited by thoughts of spending his life looking over people’s taxes. Yet we get to see that it’s true, Leo is not much of an Adventurer as even the ride on the ferry makes him nervous. During the hour-long trip, Leo tries “not to think about the deep, dark water churning beneath them … he had once spent several weeks exploring the ocean in a game called Neptune 3: The Deepest Dive, so he knew a thing or two about how incredibly dark and unbearably cold it was down there.”

Lizzie makes friends with a barn cat. This keeps her occupied, while Leo’s still looking for something to distract him from the fact that he’s going through near withdrawal from not being able to access the online games he’s accustomed to playing every day. But then, nearly as soon as the parents depart, a crime hits Heron Island—a stack of bee hives, once the pride of their departed grandmother—disappears during the night. Suddenly the kids find a cause: now they can be detectives!

When a group of apparently well-meaning older friends who call themselves the “Bumblers” arrive, the search party gets serious. The biggest annoyance this crew presents is their overly enthusiastic use of puns, which get “un-bee-lievably” overdone as they discuss ways to look into the “buzz-iness” of the missing hives.

After exploring the homes of several suspects, things get even more complicated as the search broadens. This results in Grandpa and the kids (and Lizzie’s kitten, aptly named Mayhem) needing to go to Porpoise Island themselves.

But after plenty of “bumbling” around, matters get resolved, with a culprit and a motive finally discovered. This is thanks in part to two very clever kids who have come to not only know and appreciate each other better than before, but who’ve also managed to mellow out Grandpa. Leo even learns that he might not be destined to live such a dull-sounding life as his Auditor profile had promised.

For any parent who wishes they could get their child to spend less time in front of a screen, this book could well provide a welcome distraction—but be warned, a number of the facts that help the children solve the mystery are details they’ve gleaned from the games they’ve played and sites they’ve visited online. Many bits of information about bees and beekeeping as well as details about the traits and habits of cats, get slipped in among events, yet this fast-paced story never feels preachy. Although aimed at middle grade readers, award winning Vancouver author Rachelle Delaney has written a book that manages to be informative for almost anyone while also being rollicking good fun.  9780735269309

Heidi Greco

Heidi Greco once spent a memorable holiday on the real Heron Island which is situated along the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Queensland, Australia. 

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