Thread of Deceit: A Young Adult Mystery


200 pages
ISBN 1-894549-38-4
DDC C813'.6





Reviewed by Lisa Arsenault

Lisa Arsenault is an elementary-school teacher in Ajax, Ontario.


The year is 1835 in the pioneer village of Maitland, near Brockville, on
the St. Lawrence River in Upper Canada. Lilly McNabb owns a millinery
shop in the village, which is at the hub of community activities. She
discovers a body in the woods and sets out to investigate what turns out
to be a murder and a missing-person case.

Immigrants of diverse and often contentious backgrounds are settling in
the area (Lilly and her family are from Scotland), and the population is
expanding too quickly. Tensions are exacerbated, as by this time the
best farmland is either taken or held by absentee landlords. Incoming
groups are polarizing and causing political, religious, and social

The author has a feel for time and place, bringing the raucous
exuberance of the river towns vividly to life. The bustle, commotion,
and commerce are evoked, and also the rougher side of the colony (the
dirt, drunkenness, and brawling), as well as the efforts of the more
refined elements to impose some order and civilized behaviour. Excerpts
from contemporary newspapers provide authenticity and help to verify

This young-adult novel vitalizes the history that every Grade 8 student
in Ontario studies by dramatizing it, providing context, and humanizing
historical and fictional characters. The dry facts of history
(pertaining to such things as the Family Compact, the Orange Lodge,
Tories and Reformers, the Temperance League) spring to life.

Part murder mystery, part historical adventure, with a dash of romance
thrown in, Thread of Deceit captures the flavour of the turbulent times
in Upper Canada just prior to the Rebellion through the eyes of a
fictional, but wholly believable, young participant. Highly recommended.


Cliffe, Susan., “Thread of Deceit: A Young Adult Mystery,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 22, 2024,