Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Children's Fiction Mysteries & Detective Stories

The Diamond Mistake Mystery

The Great Mistake Mysteries

by (author) Sylvia McNicoll

Dundurn Press
Initial publish date
May 2019
Mysteries & Detective Stories, Pirates, Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance, Dogs
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    May 2019
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    May 2019
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 9 to 12
  • Grade: 4 to 7
  • Reading age: 9 to 12


2020-21 Hackmatack Children’s Choice Book Award — Shortlisted
Five-year-old Pearl claims that a pirate stole the rare Blushing Diamond. But everyone’s a pirate on Halloween.

Dogwalker Stephen Noble has been recruited to walk his five-year-old reading buddy, Pearl Lebel, to and from school while her mother is away and her father is ill. He’s sure that this will be easier than walking canine clients Ping and Pong — until Pearl locks herself in the house, runs away from home, and loses her family’s rare pink diamond ring.

When Pearl claims that a pirate took the ring, Stephen and Renée are on the case. But the more they discover, the more it feels like everyone is a suspect. With Pearl annoying them every step of the way, will they be able to solve the mystery before the ring's scheduled appearance at the Brilliant Diamond Show?

About the author

Sylvia McNicoll wrote her first book, Blueberries and Whipped Cream, as a project for a college writing course in order to explore a tragedy that occurred in her own high school. She went on to teach creative writing at that same college for nine years, edit a parenting magazine for another eight years and write 29 more novels for a variety of age groups.
Most acclaimed are her three dog guide fostering stories: Bringing Up Beauty, Beauty Returns and A Different Kind of Beauty, which won and were nominated for many children's choice awards. Last Chance for Paris, her adventure book set on the ice fields of Columbia, explored ecological issues with glaciers before climate warming became a popular issue.
Her recent novel, Crush. Candy. Corpse, tells the story about a teen on trial for the manslaughter of an Alzheimer's patient. Reviewers and bloggers have declared it a must read for all high school students. In her thirtieth book Death Goes Viral, already a blockbuster hit in Norway, Sweden and Finland, Sylvia returns to the theme of life and death and the values our own mortality inspires in us.

Sylvia McNicoll's profile page


  • Short-listed, Hackmatack Children's Choice Book Award

Excerpt: The Diamond Mistake Mystery: The Great Mistake Mysteries (by (author) Sylvia McNicoll)

Day One, Mistake One

“But why wouldn’t you want to walk your reading buddy to school?” Renée Kobai turns to me, her head tilted, her hair held up in two pigtails by sparkly red bows that match her glasses. “She lives right next door.” Those pigtails flip over like puppy-dog ears that listen for my answer.

We’re on our early morning dog walk together, the one we do before school. Mrs. Bennett pays us to exercise her dogs, Ping and Pong. Well, she hires my dad’s company, Noble Dog Walking, and we work for Dad.

Renée squints at me. “Is it because she’s a girl? ’Cause my reading buddy is a boy and you don’t hear me complaining.”

“Yeah, well you don’t have to walk him. Anyway, it’s not because the teacher paired me with a girl. You’re a girl.” Although if I’m being honest, I’d rather have a boy for a reading buddy; maybe he wouldn’t constantly be begging for sparkly fairy unicorn picture books. Also, a friend who’s a boy would make sleepovers easier. “C’mon, Pearl is a kindergarten baby. They slow you down. They forget things. They have to go pee.” As we walk away from Renée’s house, I steer Pong, the rescue greyhound, away from people’s lawns.

“But it’s only for three days, right?”

“I hope so. Her sister Ruby’s on set as a background performer on Girl Power and Mrs. Lebel has to be there with her.”

“And her parents are paying you?”

“Yeah, so? It’s still a pain.”

Renée turns back to Ping, the Jack Russell she walks. “Ping, no! Stop!”

Ignoring Ping on Renée’s part was a tiny mistake. Everyone makes them. Dad tells me if we don’t ever do anything wrong, we’ll probably never get anything exciting right. So I try to take note of mine — and those of my friends and family. I can learn from those, too, after all.

Renée quickly tries to correct her little lapse of attention by tugging on Ping’s leash to get him away from Mr. Rupert’s wishing well. But it’s too late. His hind leg is up in the air and he’s watering it. All she succeeds in doing is getting Ping to bounce on his other three legs while still spraying. As a hyperactive Jack Russell, Ping loves to bounce.

The greyhound I’m walking turns his long, thin nose to gaze wistfully back at the wishing well. “No, Pong, don’t even think it.” The two dogs are a mismatched wagon team, both white with black spots, but Pong is tall, and Ping short. They love to play pee tag. “C’mon, guys, let’s run!”

Distraction works. Both Renée and I jog for a bit to get past Mr. Rupert’s house. He hates dogs going to the bathroom on his lawn, never mind that wishing well. Also, he recently adopted a huge cat named Bandit who attacks dogs and people. Bandit is nowhere to be seen today, nor is Mr. Rupert, so this mistake doesn’t need to count.

“Do you think walking your reading buddy will be more work than these guys?” Renée huffs and puffs as we slow down again.

“Probably.” I shrug my shoulders. “You know Pearl is a flight risk. She went to the bathroom in the middle of reading Dogman and never came back.”

“Oh yeah. Geez, I thought every kid liked Dogman. That half-dog, half-human thing is hilarious.”

“Comics, action, right? Plus, I think I’m a great reader.” We come to the end of a block and stop a moment to herd the dogs close, so we can cross safely over to the Bennetts’ house. “To top it off, she said she had visited with a pirate and his parrot.”

“So she has an imagination. She came back in,” Renée says.

“Yeah, but then she forgot to actually go to the bathroom and peed her pants.”

“She changed herself, though. Not like you had to clean up after her,” Renée says.

“I never got to finish Dogman. Little kids are a pain, I’m telling you.” Pong squats and I take out the last bag on the roll from my pocket, turn it inside out, and grab the long lump of warm poo he’s produced. Not my favourite part of the job. “Remind me to get another roll of bags,” I tell Renée. “I’m all out.”


“And never mind Pearl, do you remember that time Mr. Lebel yelled at us? Because you looked at his Mustang?”

“Is Mr. Lebel Pearl’s dad? Wow. Okay, he is scary.”

“Scary and hairy. I think he’s really a yeti.” Not only does hair poke out of the top of his shirt, it also springs from his ears, his legs, his hands, and his nostrils, and while I think it’s a mistake to judge someone by his looks — my dad’s kind of furry, too — Mr. Lebel blamed us when paint streaks showed up on his car. Renée had just been bending down to check them out. He never apologized even after we caught the real criminal.

Editorial Reviews

Fans of the previous books in The Great Mistake Mysteries series will be happy to reunite with dog walking detectives, Stephen and Renée, who are back in this fourth instalment (along with their favourite four-legged clients, Ping and Pong). Thanks to McNicoll’s narrative style, middle grade readers will identify with realistic dialogue and Stephen’s tendency to question everything and everyone around him... The real appeal of this novel is the humour and honesty of its likeable main character.

Canadian Children's Book News

Other titles by Sylvia McNicoll