Chloe Yan collects clues and puts herself in danger to help a churlish young man prove that his father is innocent of the crime of killing his mother. Chloe is a city girl who is interested in investigative journalism. She has just moved to East Hastings where she lives with her sister, mother and step-father, Levesque, who is chief of police in East Hastings. After having settled down into her new life working at the school newspaper, she meets a sullen young man named Jonah Shackleton. She learns from a friend that she is, in fact, living in Jonah's old house. Apparently, Jonah's father is in prison for life because he murdered his wife by knocking her on the head and causing her to fall down the basement stairs five years ago. Jonah believes his father is innocent and every so often he can be found carrying a large “free Harold Shackleton” poster at the East Hastings Municipal Building. Chloe's friend, Ross, who also works at the school newspaper, tells her that Jonah is violent and unstable. In fact, Jonah was sent to a Youth Centre for beating him and some other people up because he wrote an article about the whole affair. Later on that day, Chloe, who is excellent at French, is asked to tutor Jonah. She's dreading the experience, however she already agreed so she feels she can't back out, now.
Chloe feels like she must prepare herself for the ordeal by finding out everything she can about Jonah. Ross tells her about the North Mines Landfill project which was a project to convert an abandoned mining camp into an extension of a landfill. Five years ago, Jonah's mother owned the North Mines and planned to give it to an environmental group, however because of her timely death, the mines went to Jonah's dad who ended up selling it for lots of money.
One day as Chloe is going to school, she witnesses an altercation between Jonah, who is protesting, and the mayor of East Hastings, Dave McDermott. Chloe's step-father ends up having to break up the tension. The mayor is angry that Jonah is insinuating that he carried out an injustice by sending Jonah's father to prison. Later on, Chloe learns that Dave used to be the Chief Officer of East Hastings and in fact was in charge of Mary Shackleton's case. Now, Dave plans on running in the federal election and he doesn't want any sort of taint on his reputation that could undermine his campaign.
A few days later there is news that a new municipal by-law will be put in place that forces anyone who wants to picket to have to make a formal application before they are permitted to. Chloe is aghast and disgusted at the news as she believes this is an infringement on the democratic rights of the people for free speech. She and her friend Ross attend the town council meeting where the by-law will be passed. The only other spectators present are Jonah and the mayor himself. Chloe notices the mayor has an odd habit of using his spit to polish his shirt buttons, earning him the nickname “Spit-and-polish McDermott”. Of course, the by-law ends up getting passed, much to Chloe's dismay.
Chloe decides to go to the library and research all the facts behind Harold Shackleton's case. After reading all she can get her hands on, she finds it difficult to believe that Harold is innocent. She does notice, however, that after the case was “solved”, McDermott's career began to rise from Chief of police to councilor to mayor. Later that day, Chloe visits Jonah at his home and finds out he is planning on protesting regardless of his lack of permits. Chloe decides to protest along with him and this gets her in trouble with the law. Luckily, her step-father intercedes and convinces McDermott not to press charges as the by-law was not a good one and can still be taken up with the Supreme courts. Chloe ends up telling Jonah that there's no use sending letters to councilors and protesting that his father is innocent if he doesn't have any proof. She unwittingly agrees to help Jonah find the identity of his mother's real killer. Their first foray into discussing the details of the case is unsuccessful, however, as Jonah is very touchy about the subject.
Chloe thinks the evidence used to incarcerate Harold Shackleton was circumstantial as there were no witnesses. When she discusses this with her step-father, she finds that Levesque has been doing more research into the case than he let on. Levesque tells her the only way she may be able to contest Harold's case would be if she found another person who has equally good motives for killing Mary Shackleton. She finds out from Ross that there were indeed a group of businessmen who were interested in buying the North Mines from Mary. Ross, whose mother works as a municipal clerk, promises that he'll try to find out who these businessmen were.
After they obtain the list of businessmen that are potential murderers, Chloe convinces Ross to chauffeur her and Jonah around to investigate each of the businessmen. Ross is really reluctant as he doesn't like Jonah, but he's willing to do it for Chloe and for a potential news story. The first person they visit is Bob Chartoff who runs a garbage hauling business. Chloe interviews Bob on the pretense that she needs the information for an article on the North Mines Landfill Project. Bob is surprisingly forthcoming on information about the Landfill Project, though he thinks it's not a good idea to stir up the trouble again. He mentions that early on in the Project, he bailed out but the other two businessmen, Simla and Himmel may have had more at stake if the Project fell through as it was their ticket up the ladder of power. They next interview Simla at his Automotive parts store. Simla tells them that he has also sold his share of the deal to Himmel. Chloe convinces Ross to accompany her to interview the last man on their list – Mr. Himmel who works in a car dealership in Morrisville. Chloe learns from Mr. Himmel's longtime secretary that on the day Mary Shackleton was murdered, Mr. Himmel broke his usual routine and came in forty-five minutes late. When Chloe finally gets to meet Mr. Himmel he immediately threatens to have her thrown out. Chloe and Ross are suspicious that Mr. Himmel has something to hide.
A few days later, Chloe again witnesses a shouting match between Dave McDermott and Jonah. Chloe gets Jonah away before he does something he'll regret. She learns that Jonah was angry because Dave had called his father and told his father all the family problems that have been happening. Worried, Harold then called Jonah to talk to him. Jonah is angry that Dave is interfering with his life when he believes Dave is just doing this to guilt-trip Jonah into staying quiet during his election campaign. Chloe learns an important detail - that Dave used to be very good friends with Jonah's father. Chloe also learns that Dave's sister is now Mr. Himmel's wife. To investigate a potential lead, Chloe decides to interview Mrs. Himmel. She is unable to reach her, but manages to interview a woman who works for Mrs. Himmel. This woman confirms that Mr. Himmel did have an alibi the day of Mary Shackleton's murder as he was working at a local soup kitchen that morning. When Chloe investigates the soup kitchen, however, she learns that Mr. Himmel was in fact, late to come to his volunteering duties that morning.
Chloe learns that Dave McDermott is causing trouble even for her step-father as he is threatening to fire him. She also learns that Dave McDermott was in fact very close to Harold's family – he was dating Jonah's Aunt at one point. One night, Jonah gets involved in another fight which sends him to the hospital, forcing Chloe to babysit his little brother Jay. Jay was the only one who could potentially have been a witness the night Mary Shackleton died, but at the time of the trial, he was only a toddler. Lately, Jay has been having nightmares and behaving oddly, making Jonah and his Aunt worried. The night Chloe had to babysit Jay, she catches him shredding up a photograph of his Aunt with Dave. She also happens to sit on his teddy bear which contained something sharp. One day, Chloe is over at Jonah's house and learns that Jay has a stomachache and threw up. To be helpful, Chloe washes the dirty clothes and Jay's teddy bear. Since the teddy bear is old, one of its seams break and Chloe tries to be helpful by sewing it back up. She feels something hard in the teddy bear, however, and it turns out to be a button – the kind you might find on an official uniform.
Chloe puts two and two together and when Jonah's Aunt comes home, she asks her whether anyone was with her the day Mary Shackleton was murdered - the day Mary told her that she planned on giving the mines to the environmental group. Mary admits that Dave McDermott was there. Jonah's Aunt tells them that she was worried that Harold might do something out of anger so Dave went to Mary's house to make sure everything was alright. Later on, Dave made Jonah's Aunt promise not to mention this fact during Harold's trial as it will make him look bad. Chloe relays everything she found out to her step-father and he tells her he'll look into it. A few days later, Chloe's step-father tells her there still isn't enough evidence to implicate McDermott or Himmel. Before they can proceed any further, there is news that Jonah's brother, Jay, is missing.
Everyone in the community goes out into the woods to search for Jay. Chloe becomes separated and takes a rough fall, spraining her ankle severely. Mr. Himmel shows up and soon after, Dave McDermott. They tell her that little Jay has been found. They notice that Chloe is a few centimeters away from a steep drop-off and Chloe is afraid they'll push her off because of all the trouble she's stirring up. Chloe lies and says that someone knows about what they did and that her step-father is looking into it. She tells McDermott that she has his button which has his DNA on it (because of his habit of spiting and polishing his buttons). Himmel reveals that he had been at Mary's house the day she died, but by the time he'd arrived, Mary had already been pushed down the stairs and the only other person there was Dave. At the time, he thought it was Harold who did it, but now it certainly looks like it was probably McDermott. There is a brief tousle whereby McDermott tries to push Chloe down the ravine and get away, however Himmel knocks him out. The mystery is finally solved and Jonah's dad may now likely get out of prison and rejoin his family.
Best part of story, including ending:
I like that the story raises the issue of wrongful convictions and how devastating it can be to families. It was satisfying to see things put to rights and Chloe get the respect she deserves, as before, everyone was laughing at her when she claimed she could prove Jonah's father is innocent.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was the climax when Chloe was afraid she might get pushed into the ravine and Dave McDermott might get away with what he did. Dave had been a very pompous character who seemed downright despicable as he was willing to sacrifice his relationships with those who care about him in order to gain more political prominence. It was very satisfying when Dave was knocked out by Himmel.
Opinion about the main character:
I like Chloe's eye for details, as she quickly picks up on information that Ross and Jonah easily miss. It was because she kept track of all her clues so carefully that she ended up being able to figure out who the real murderer was.