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He's the deficit-slaying former finance minister and prime minister. But in the pages of a new novel, Paul Martin is also a crime-fighting kid detective.

Showdown at Border Town: An Early Adventure of Paul Martin is a young adults' novel starring Canada's 21st prime minister as a 12-year-old who solves a mystery involving his kidnapped friend, an illegal bootlegging operation and corrupt police officers.

"It's really a very, very good book and I suspect I'm going to get all kinds of offers from private investigators to come and join them as partner," Mr. Martin said with a chuckle in an interview.

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Written by Ottawa teenager Caroline Woodward, the book is the third in a series designed to increase young Canadians' knowledge of political history by featuring prime ministers as adventurous 12- and 13-year-olds.

"We don't just write mystery and adventure stories and stick in the prime minister's name. We also make sure that there's some history that's learned as well and then give it that Hardy Boys-esque feeling in the book," said Roderick Benns, co-founder of Fireside Publishing House and author of the first two novels on Sir John A. Macdonald and John Diefenbaker.

The books are rooted in the time and geography of their subjects' youth and also foreshadow elements of their later political lives. In Showdown at Border Town , which is set in the summer of 1950 in Colchester, Ont., near Windsor, the young Paul Martin becomes friends with a native boy from a nearby reserve. After stepping down as prime minister, Mr. Martin went on to launch the Martin Aboriginal Education Initiative.

Before writing the book last summer, Ms. Woodward researched Mr. Martin's life, speaking with him by telephone and touring his boyhood cottage.

"He's been so nice about it that I was more excited to get it onto paper," said Ms. Woodward, who is 17 and in Grade 12 at Canterbury High School in Ottawa.

Ms. Woodward won a student contest by Fireside Publishing House to write the book when she was 15, beating out about 100 other entries with her proposal and first chapter.

"It's really exciting. I'm for sure excited for people to actually read it," she said Thursday before the book's launch party.

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Mr. Martin says news of his fanciful exploits has led to phone calls from "intrigued" friends, along with a few doubters.

"I must say I do run into a certain amount of skepticism as to my detective abilities, which I find unfortunate," he said. "I've had a couple of friends call me and say, 'I knew you when you were 12 and you couldn't find your way through a paper bag, let alone be a great detective.' To which I say that their memories were wrong."

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