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Book Reviews, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade Readers, Mystery/Adventure

THE CASE OF THE DEADLY DESPERADOS by Caroline Lawrence

 

On the afternoon of his twelfth birthday Pinky comes home to discover his foster parents have been attacked and scalped.  His foster father is already dead but his foster mother lives a few minutes after he discovers her.  She lives long enough to tell him she and her husband were not attacked by Indians but by white men disguised as Indians and to take the medicine bag given him by his biological mother and run for safety.  She makes him promise her:  (1) he will never take another life–not even of those who committed this crime; (2) he will forgive those who committed this act;(3) he will not gamble; and (4) he will not drink hard liquor.  Pinky promises.  Immediately following his promise, the desperados who killed his foster parents come back.

Pinky realizes the killers were after the paper his biological mother gave to him which deeds the bearer a great deal of land in the mountains of the silver-rich Comstock mines.  Pinky flees the tiny town of Temperance for the Big City but is pursued by the Desperados.  Pinky soon discovers that the man who is chasing him is none other than Whittlin’ Walt–one of the most dangerous and feared killers in the West.

Pinky is determined to sell his claim in order to book passage on a stagecoach to Chicago.  Now that he has no family he intends to go to the Pinkerton Detective Agency run by his biological uncle and ask for a job.  Pinky has two big obstacles: (1) he is half-Caucasian and half-Lacota Indian which sets him up for mistreatment and discrimination in the 19th Century Old West; and (2)his inability to read other people–he has trouble judging when others are sincere and when they are deceiving him.  This particular obstacle results in several missteps that bring Pinky repeatedly into mortal danger.

The story is fast-paced with one cliffhanger after another.  Pinky is genuine, smart, funny and good-hearted.  He is a hero for whom it is easy to cheer.  I thoroughly enjoyed Pinky’s tale.  If you like adventure and mystery then The Case of the Deadly Desperados is for you!

NOTE: Parents and teachers be aware that–although not frequent–there is historically appropriate language in the story that we now acknowledge as offensive, as well as a scene in an opium house.  All language and scenes are handled appropriately but may require discussion with young readers for definition and to specify context.

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