Books in Canada Review - Tunnels of Treachery

Reviewed by: M. Wayne Cunningham

Books in Canada

January/February 2004

 

Tunnels of Treachery

Mary Harelkin Bishop

 

In this third tumble into Moose Jaw’s 1920s tunnels, 15-year old Andrea Talbot and her 10-year old diabetic, insulin popping brother, Tony, accidentally bring along their Chinese friends, 14-year old twins, Eddie and Kami Mark. 

From the foursome’s first landing everything goes crazy, and the action-oriented tension begins to build. The Marks get separated from the Talbots and from each other. As the confused twins wander the tunnels they’re individually caught by Mean-Eyed Max, Stilts and Chubbs, gangsters and racists the Talbots clashed with in their two previous time trips. The captured twins are called “Coolies”; while being held, they learn about Head taxes, discrimination and subsistence wages, and discover how Chinese immigrants were smuggled into western Canada as indentured slaves. They’re forced to work as labourers – Kami in a laundry sweat shop and Eddie in a fruit-packing warehouse. Both endure conditions and cruelties identical to those suffered by 1920s Chinese in Canada.

As the Talbots unite to rescue their friends, they link up again with the younger versions of their family members – grandfather Vance, great aunt Bea and eventually their grandmother, Sarah. The Marks’ grandparents come into the picture as well and so do several locals, including Officer Patterson, Vance’s step-dad. With everybody’s help, Andrea and Tony solve the mysteries of the tunnels’ exits, secret entrances and hideaways. They free the immigrant workers, uncover a cache of opium and round up the bad guys. Then the happy foursome heads home to a family gathering with both sets of grandparents and “so many wonderful memories to share.”

The book’s a dramatic, enticing, stand-alone adventure with enough well-placed references to the earlier trips to get a reader interested in reading them too. It’s also an instructional, non-preachy introduction to, and airing of, a less than noble era in the treatment of the Chinese in Canada.

Article by M. Wayne Cunningham.

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