Prairie Fire Review - Tunnels of Treachery

Reviewed by: Donna Gamache

Tunnels of Treachery by Mary Harelkin Bishop is the third in a time-travel series tha takes place in the tunnels beneath Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, during the 1920s. It is an exciting series that young people, especially those with an interest in history, will enjoy.

In the first book, Tunnels of Time, thirteen-year-old Alicia Talbot is whisked back to the days when Moose Jaw was the hub of a liquor distribution network funnelling booze into the United States during prohibition. Gangsters, including the infamous Al Capone, are said to have operated in the tunnels. The second book, Tunnels of Terror, occurs a year later. On a visit to her grandparents in Moose Jaw, Andrea once again time-travels back to the 1920s. This time her nine-year-old brother, Tony (newly diagnosed with diabetes), is with her, and the adventure involves thieves and crooked cops who use the tunnels. An interesting feature of the series that the children they meet in the 1920s are destined to be their own ancestors.

In this newest adventure, Andrea and Tony are once again thrust into the tunnels, this time with Kami and Eddie, two friends of Chinese ancestry. The adventure deals with Chinese immigrants, illegally brought into Canada by gangsters and then made to work in a steam laundries and gunnysack factories for a pittance, in order to pay the head tax demanded by the Canadian government. the gangsters are also smuggling opium and storing it below ground.

When Kami and Eddie are captured and forced to work with the Chinese immigrants, Andrea and Tony, with the help of several 1920s friends, must figure out how to free the pair without also getting captured. There is much suspense and danger, which young readers will enjoy, as the children search for Kami and Eddie underground. The historical element is also important, as many Canadians are unaware of how these early immigrants were treated.

Another important feature of the story involves Tony's diabetes. In the previous book, Tony was still refusing to accept the disease, but in this one he treats it as just part of his life, and is always careful to carry insulin and snacks (though, of course, these are not understood in the 1920s). 

I have enjoyed all three books in the series so far, and believe that most young readers would, too. The newest one can be enjoyed without having read the first two, although having done so would make the new story easier to understand, since there are frequent references to events and people from the earlier books.

One possible problem in Tunnels of Treachery is the excess of characters. It includes four present-day children and several children from the 1920s, as well as adults in both times, and I wonder if some children might find this confusing, especially since teh viewpoint shifts frequently among the children. If the author decides to write more books in this series, she may have to consider limiting the number of characters.

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