The Secret of Devil Lake


160 pages
Contains Maps
ISBN 0-00-648100-0
DDC jC813'.54




Reviewed by Patricia Morley

Patricia Morley is professor emerita of English and Canadian Studies at
Concordia University and an avid outdoor recreationist. She is also the
author of The Mountain Is Moving: Japanese Women’s Lives, Kurlek, and
Margaret Laurence: The Long Journey Hom


Fourteen-year-old Will Martin finds himself in a desperate race against
time, with only one week in which to find the evidence to save his
father from hanging for a murder he did not commit. The year is 1845 and
the setting is Westport, Ontario, and the lakes south of it in the
Rideau Canal. A decade earlier, Will’s father had served as a soldier
with the Royal Engineers, building the Rideau Canal as a defence against
an anticipated Yankee invasion. This venture nearly cost him his life,
thanks to swamp fever and other ills. Now he stands accused of theft and
murder, and Will has little time in which to prove his innocence.

Robert Sutherland, a native of the Westport region, has published seven
earlier adventure novels. He is obviously well acquainted with local
history and the local terrain, and uses both to good effect. He is also
skilled in building suspense and a credible base for Will’s daring
escapades. On the last night before the hanging, Will risks his own life
to get the evidence of his father’s innocence and narrowly escapes
being murdered himself. A dramatic night ride to the jail provides a
satisfying ending, with the last word going to a parrot called Auld

Sutherland’s prose is clean and hard, his dialogue credible, and his
handling of suspense excellent. This page-turning drama for young teens
is a painless way to learn some 19th-century Ontario history. Highly


Sutherland, Robert., “The Secret of Devil Lake,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024,