Wednesday 15 June 2011

The Case of the Deadly Desperados by Caroline Lawrence

 Pages - 269
Published by Orion Children's Books in June 2011
Book kindly sent to me by publisher for an honest review.

My name is P.K. Pinkerton and before this day is over I will be dead.
I am trapped down the deepest shaft of a Comstock silver mine with three desperados closing in on me. 
Until they find me, I have my pencil and these ledge sheets and a couple of candles. If I write small & fast, I might be able to write an account of how I came to be here. Then whoever finds my bod will know the unhappy events that led to my demise.

Caroline Lawrence is extremely well known for writing The Roman Mysteries which has helped lots of children embrace the Romans and find a love of history at the same time. Caroline has now embarked on a new journey and has presented us with the first book in The Western Mysteries series, which takes us back to the Wild West of America, Virginia City in 1862 to be precise.

Up until reading this book, my only real knowledge of the Wild West was through the last film in the Back to the Future trilogy. So I was extremely pleased to be given so much more information about that time period within this book. Caroline Lawrence has obviously researched the Wild West meticulously as the attention to detail is unbelievable. Caroline Lawrence knows what she is talking about. I felt like I had stepped instantly back into Virginia City, right into the middle of a gun fight. I could almost hear the gun shots from the Double Deringer.

The narrator for the story is P.K. Pinkerton. Don't ask me whether the character was a boy or girl, because quite frankly I am not quite sure. The author twisted the plot backwards and forwards with this mystery leaving me confused (on purpose I believe) as to the sex of the narrator. I think it is a boy, so I will call him that for now, but who knows.   All I do know is the narrator was 12 years old, was half Indian and half America and that his mother had died, leaving him with a set of foster parents. He is also a very brave child to come up against such deadly character so fearlessly as he does.

I am certain that P.K. Pinkerton is slightly autistic, by his inability to decipher people's emotions and his quickness with numbers. However, the author never makes that public knowledge, so I could be wrong. Although in that era, they wouldn't have have had a medical term for the condition.  The book begins with Pinkerton's 12th  birthday, where he arrives home to find his foster parents dying, after being brutally attacked by Whittlin Walt, a rather nasty character who appeared on Wanted posters around the town. He is desperate for an item that he believes P.K. to own and will stop at nothing to get it. P.K. quickly leaves his home in search of a safer haven in Virginia City. However he will not be going alone, as Whittlin Walt is quickly on his trail. He will kill P.K to get what he wants.

You have to feel sorry for P.K. as his dangerous journey, the constant hiding and his attempts at double crossing Whittlin Walt, leave you feeling breathless. There is no time for him to stop and rest. Every time he thinks he has done the right thing, someone comes along and double crosses him, creating a fast paced thrilling ride.

I was extremely excited to see Sam Clemens hiding amongst the pages. Sam Clemens was better known by his pen name of Mark Twain, and appears within the story as a reporter, which he actually was before he became a writer and provided us with such characters as Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. He is brilliant portrayed within the story and it felt like I had found my own golden nugget whilst reading the book.

This book is extremely detailed and keeps you on your toes the whole way through. The chapters are short, sharp and  each one is finished off  with an excellent cliff hanger. All the characters come alive, each one solid and easy to remember, with their own back story being provided in snippets here and there. There is even a glossary at the back to help you grasp the Western language used within the book. Caroline Lawrence is leading the way in Western fiction while everyone else is left trailing behind. This book has quenched my first for Western fiction and I look forward to the next installment in the series.


  1. Great review, this book sounds like my kind of read.

  2. I don't think I've ever really read anything about the American West. I think most of my knowledge of it comes from the movies. It sounds like I could learn a lot from this book.

  3. I think I would really have enjoyed this one when younger (and still would for that matter). I always did love to learn at the same time

  4. sounds like fun. I dont know much about the Wild West either.

  5. Terrific, enthusiastic review! I like that Samuel Clemens is in the story--great touch!


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