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Children's Nonfiction Law & Crime

Real Justice: A Police Mr. Big Sting Goes Wrong

The Story of Kyle Unger

by (author) Richard Brignall

James Lorimer & Company Ltd., Publishers
Initial publish date
Feb 2015
Law & Crime, Social Activists, General
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2015
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Feb 2015
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 13 to 18
  • Grade: 8 to 12
  • Reading age: 9 to 10


On the night of June 23, 1990, teenage friends Kyle Unger and John Beckett made a last-minute decision to attend a music festival near Roseisle, Manitoba. They were loners, not the popular kids at school. But on this night they seemed to finally fit in. They had fun, played games, drank, and hung around bonfires with other people. The next morning, a sixteen-year-old girl was dead. By the next week, Kyle was charged with her murder. Due to insufficient evidence he was let go, but the Mounties were convinced he was the killer.

They laid a trap, called the Mr. Big operation, for Kyle. With offers of money, friends, and a new criminal lifestyle, the RCMP got Kyle to confess to the murder. But the confession was false -- he had not been the killer. He was convicted and sent to prison.

For the next twenty years Kyle fought for his freedom. He was finally acquitted in 2009.

This book tells the story of an impressionable but innocent teenager who was wrongfully convicted based on the controversial Mr. Big police tactic.

[Fry reading level - 4.9


About the author

Richard Brignall is a freelance writer, former newspaper sport reporter, based in Kenora, Ontario. He has over 130 articles published in magazines like Cottage Life and Outdoor Canada. He helped originate the Recordbooks series at James Lorimer and Company. This series focuses on Canadian sports history and issues like race, gender, disability, and poverty. He has written seven books for this series. Titles include Small Town Glory about the Kenora Thistles winning the Stanley Cup, Forever Champions about the Edmonton Grads women’s basketball team, Big League Dreams about black baseball player Fergie Jenkins, and China Clipper about Chinese-Canadian football player Norm Kwong. 

Richard Brignall's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"This is a great, to the point examination of a fallible justice system. It brings to light a story that may have otherwise been fairly unknown to the world at large and does so in a way that is approachable and still interesting."


"[Blissfully easy to read. . . This would be a welcome book in our hi-lo collection. It has all the great elements: grit, true crime, a wrong made right, and unintimidating amount of pages."

Librarian at Schuyler Central High School

"A quick intense and yet factual read [for boys and anyone who struggles to find subjects they are interested in. I have heard a lot of good things about this series and I will be recommending it to anyone interested in true crime or police procedural dramas."

NetGalley Reviewer

"Brignall states his facts as objectively as possible and pulls no punches the book gets somewhat graphic here and offers an in-depth study of the case that true crime and nonfiction fans will appreciate. Further resources in the back offer a timeline and more reading for those interested."

Children's Book Review Blog

"A must for high school students, high school libraries, as well as public libraries."


"The text of this latest volume is easy-to-read and informative as it explains details about the judicial system and methods of policing. Recommended."

CM: Canadian Review of Materials

"[A real page turner with a few twists and turns. Make sure that you have your seatbelt on because you are going on a real justice ride of your life . . . I gave this book 5 stars, although it's worth many more. It is a fascinating story and teens and YA would really like reading it . . . I highly recommend this book to everyone."

NetGalley Reviewer

"In my opinion, this will be a helpful book in a civics or government class. It's another of those books that will lend itself to a good debate or conversation amongst students who are working or thinking through ways that the justice system can be held accountable to the people it represents . . . I recommend it to my readers and also to teachers who may want to stir up a good conversation or debate in their social studies classroom. 5/5 Stars."

Educator at Buckeye Avenue Elementary School

"Lorimer's unusual Real Justice books are authentic whodunits, telling the true stories of young people wrongfully convicted by the justice system. This short, factual book includes photographs, a timeline, a glossary, and an index, makign it perfect for classroom use... This story will inspire provocative discussions on criminal justice, civics, guilt and innocence. Ultimately, Kyle's case brought about changes in our justice system and serves as an example that "real" justice remains elusive."

National Reading Campaign

"Brignall states his facts as objectively as possible and pulls no punches - the book gets somewhat graphic here - and offers an in-depth study of the case that true crime and nonfiction fans will appreciate."

NetGalley Reviewer

"[A Police Mr. Big Sting Goes Wrong presented the case from all the angles: the victim, the bystanders and the accused . . . It was an amazing read; it really got under my skin."

NetGalley Reviewer

"The author does a good job of walking readers through the series of unfortunate events that landed Kyle in jail for nearly two decades before the mistake was realized and rectified . . . [There is plenty of information to generate decent discussion in a social justice or English class. Recommended."

Librarian at Pennridge North Middle School, NetGalley Reviewer

"Richard Brignall writes in a detailed and clear manner that make it easy to follow the story along. As a middle school teacher I know of multiple students who would be interested in story and I will be adding a copy of this to my classroom library."

Educator at Pacific Heritage Academy, NetGalley Reviewer

"I find value in this book for its intended audience because of the author's relentless critical thinking, his overturning of comfortable stereotypes, and his willingness to state in print blunt truths that most of us prefer remain unspoken. The book left me wanting to read further volumes in the series, and I would strongly recommend it for classrooms serving readers struggling with literacy and for community libraries serving vulnerable youth, as well as for any teen readers interested in policing, crime, and justice. It is an impressive book." Rated G - good, even great at times, generally useful!

Resource Links

"Interesting read. It slammed home for me the importance of choices, consequences, and chance. This could be use in literature circles with struggling readers. I think it might spark lively discussions."

Educator at White Salmon Schools, NetGalley Reviewer

"The low-key, just-the-facts writing conveys the horrific nature of the murder and the miscarriage of justice in a way that's accessible to YA readers. A revealing look at what works and what needs to be fixed in the criminal justice system."

Librarian at Plymouth Library, NetGalley Reviewer

"I am a massive fan of true crime books and this one did not disappoint . . . The book is a really good tale on a well known issue in Canadian law."

NetGalley Reviewer

"As a high interest-easy reading book written at the 4th grade level, this title has many things to recommend it for leisure reading for struggling readers in middle school and high school . . . There is much here to engage teens in thinking about and discussing the actions of the teens that led to both the murder and the mistaken prosecution of Kyle Unger."

Educator at Rowan University

"...a fascinating look at police tactics, wrongful convictions, and the inner workings of the criminal justice system. ...ideal for sparking conversation on choice, prejudice, corruption, and social justice."

School Library Journal

Other titles by Richard Brignall