500 Minutes of Danger

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Jack Heath, 500 Minutes of Danger, Scholastic Australia, 1 August 2017,  192pp.,  $12.99 (pbk),  ISBN: 9781743816493

This is the third in a series of power packed short stories, designed to be read within 30 minutes. The stories read at break-neck speed, with disasters literally around every corner.

The genre is pretty set, but the locations and various disasters cover just about every imaginable event – and many I would never have imagined. In the opening story, Quicksand, a girl goes looking for her adventurous uncle who has not returned from a bush expedition, and is soon neck deep in quicksand, feeling tremors from an earthquake, and hearing howls that conjure the image of a monster. When a hungry dingo finds her in this helpless position, she can almost feel its breath on her throat when something spooks it into retreat.

I read Quicksand to a series of year 7 and 8 classes, to rapt attention, followed either by gasps of horror or surprised laughter at the end. Other stories include Acid Rain, Buried Alive, Three Bombs and Swallowed Whole, to name a few. Although the stories aren’t obviously linked at first sight, there is a recurring reference to some sort of monster in most, and the links come together towards the end of the collection.

The previous books in the series, 300 Minutes of Danger and 400 Minutes of Danger, along with the current title, are constantly borrowed in school and public libraries, and well worth having in multiple copies, or as spares for reluctant readers with a penchant for having “nothing to read”. The stories would also be excellent models for writing suspense filled stories, or for analysis, though I am happy to have them around just for fun.

Reviewed by Marita Thomson

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