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on 15 June 2011
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.
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on 4 June 2011
This is the book that we have all be waiting for a great western book set in Virgina city gives everything ,the hot sun, the dust and the selfish characters.Virgina city is a harsh town where everyone has a gun "You look conspicuous without one"and no one does anything out of Christian kindness(If you'll pardon my French.)Caroline incorporates real characters into the story flawlessly and brings them back to life.In the book the prospect of death is very real and around every corner someone could point a gun at you.It is set in the time of the silver rush and shows who has power in such a barren place.This is a book for all ages and can be enjoyed alone or in a group.The book is more than a well written story it is a peace of art that has been beautifully illustrated by Caroline's husband it is a book to be treasured.At such a good price you would have to be dehydrated not to buy it as this is as possibly as good as the price will get.This is a book to be enjoyed again and again and it written on high quality paper it is more than just a book it is a work of art.Hats off to Caroline Lawrence!
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on 10 April 2012
How do you follow a series that has been as successful as Caroline Lawrence's `Roman Mysteries'? It must have been quite a daunting task to move away from Ancient Rome and start a new series about the Wild West, but I think there is a good chance that this new character (PK) will become as well loved as Flavia and her friends.

This first story in the new series is certainly action packed - right from the very beginning when PK finds his foster parents dead at the family home. He (or is it she?) has a valuable document that "The Deadly Desperados" want and he spends the rest of the book trying to stay one step ahead of them. She (or is it he?) sets off to find his natural father and along the way meets an assortment of colourful characters, some friendly, some not so friendly and some that are downright dangerous, so the story is never dull and all the while, the Deadly Desperados are never far behind. Although some of the scenes are gruesome and unpleasant (the opium den, the scalping of the foster parents) the tone of the book is light hearted and even funny in places and I think this is a good read for fans of the Roman Mysteries.
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on 6 December 2011
This is superb writing for kids: fast paced, action packed, not to mention one of the most fascinating periods in history to read about - the American West. I love the fact that the hero is half Indian, too. The writing is detailed and exciting and I suspect, knowing the author's Roman Mysteries series, historically accurate too. I don't remember seeing 'China Town' in all those old black and white westerns I used to watch, but here we get a sense of what it may really have been like. I also love the description of characters, like the 'soiled doves' - all instantly recognizable from those old cowboy films. P.K Pinkerton is funny and cool, getting himself in all kinds of trouble as he sets out on his adventure, and we see a speck of ourselves in his cute naivety as he works out the trials and troubles of life and weaves his way through the maze of situations and characters. There are many of life's lessons to be learned here, especially about judging and misjudging people, and things like the value of generosity over greed. Like those old fairytales, this story will, in a fun way, show kids that even the greatest obstacles can be overcome, and you don't have to be a superhero to succeed either, just a bit of faith, friendliness, and good ol' fashioned bravery! The story is fast and exciting. It twists and turns brilliantly and you're kept guessing until the very end. It's hilarious in places and touching too. I was emotionally moved at the end, tears in my eyes and everything. A really fantastic story. I love this book and P.K. Pinkerton. Thanks Caroline. More more more!!!
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In the first book in her new Western Mysteries series Caroline Lawrence takes us back in time to Virginia City in 1862. We follow the story of P.K Pinkerton who is being chased by a gang of desperados, they already killed and scalped his foster parents and he is next on their list. I say HIS foster parents but throughout the entire book we're never quite sure if P.K is actually a boy or a girl. The author has done a fantastic job of keeping P.K's gender a secret, he adopts numerous disguises throughout the story and I was constantly changing my mind about whether he is a boy or a girl. Either way he was a character I loved and I can't wait to get my hands on the

I'm sure P.K. is autistic, the way he thinks reminds me a lot of Christopher, the main character in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. Both characters are extremely intelligent but have trouble understanding facial expressions, don't like to be touched and aren't comfortable when their routines are changed. Of course there would have been no way of identifying autism back in the Wild West so this is never confirmed but I would be very surprised if it wasn't true. P.K. finds it very hard to work out who is telling him the truth which makes it very difficult for him to decide who to trust and leads to him getting into trouble on more than one occasion.

The Wild West is a harsh and violent place where everyone is out for themselves and most people will only help you if they're going to get something out of it. Caroline Lawrence has captured the atmosphere perfectly and it feels like you are walking through Virginia City beside P.K. with the desperados not far behind. We are introduced to a wide range of side characters, some of whom will surprise you completely and I'm looking forward to finding out more about them in future installments of the series.

If you're looking for something a bit different and fancy going on a Western adventure look no further than The Case of the Deadly Desperados. The story is fast paced with short chapters and an incredibly easy book to fly through in one sitting, I'm sure even the most reluctant reader would enjoy it. This may have been the first book I've read by Caroline Lawrence but it definitely won't be the last and I'm looking forward to checking out her Roman Mysteries series in the not to distant future.
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on 19 May 2012
I saw this for the first time at the School Library Association conference last year. Intrigued, I bought three copies for the school library. They've rarely been on the shelves over the last year, and all the fans are desperate for the next one! Caroline Lawrence's Roman Mysteries have always been popular, and this shares a lot of the same great traits - brilliant research, great writing and plotting, and a real feeling of 'being there'. The quality of the whole package (it even looks and feels great!) add to the overall feeling that everything's been well thought out about the book and the series.

A quality product, a great story, and perfect for the target audience (even if they start off knowing nothing about the Wild West!). Unreservedly recommended! :-)
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on 15 August 2011
This is a terrific start to a new series - very fresh, very different. Pinky, the lead character, is a twelve year old boy who, at the beginning of the book, finds that his beloved foster parents have been slain and scalped by the 'Deadly Desperadoes' of the title - and unless he can somehow manage to outwit them, he's next. So much happens, and it's so inventive; you feel absolutely immersed in the atmosphere of the Wild West - which seems to have been pretty much absent from fiction for a good many years now. There's a wide variety of richly imagined characters, but Pinky himself is special: he can't 'read' expressions, and doesn't know how to show feelings either - the author sets herself a challenge with such a narrator, but she triumphantly meets it. Fantastic fun!
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on 14 March 2012
My daughter is fifteen and this is what she had to say.

I love this book its fast paced and full of excitement, i absolutely love Pinky, its such a brilliant adventure book i couldn't put it down.
I would defiantly recommend this book to my friends.
My favourite scene was when Pinky was hiding underneath belle donne dress.
I loved the way she described the strong smell of the rum hair tonic.
and i really enjoyed your roman mysteries that's what got me into writing my own stories and hoping to become an author one day.
Thanks Caroline for a great book can't wait for the next one.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 7 April 2012
I'm a firm believer that a good tale told by a fine storyteller should have no limitations in its audience. If an author creates a world I want to immerse myself in then I will completely ignore the direction that this is a book for children or Young Adults. In fact, I like to maintain that I am a Young Adult, it's just that I'm a little older.

I am a big fan of Caroline Lawrence's Roman Mysteries. Not just because they're exciting adventures told well, evoking my favourite of all periods of history, but because I know how much they will excite younger readers, making them as keen to learn about Roman history as to read words on the page. When I was younger I became such a passionate seeker of knowledge about history because of the novels I read. I also wanted to read stories because history was revealed to me as a subject I wanted to read about. Caroline Lawrence has a great gift for communicating this deep love both for the past and for its revelation through storytelling.

While the Roman Mysteries take a rest, Caroline has turned her attention to something a little closer to her native home of San Francisco - the Western and the Wild Wild West. The P.K. Pinkerton Mysteries have begun with the first story entitled The Case of the Deadly Desperados. As the novel begins. P.K. Pinkerton - or Pinky - discovers his adopted parents scalped and murdered by an axe blow. Before his adopted mother passes away, she tells Pinky that the killers were after the contents of his medicine bag. Inside it is little of value, just a button from the jacket of his real father, a detective from Chicago, and a letter promising the bearer a piece of land that may, or may not, be worth staking a claim. With just this and a gold coin, Pinky sets off to find his real father's detective relatives in Chicago. The problem is that the killers are on his trail and, when Pinky gets the chance to run and hide in the alphabetically aligned streets of Virginia City, he does so. From that moment on, P.K. Pinkerton has nothing but his wits, brains and nerve to see him through, hampered as he is by his biggest failing in life - he cannot tell when another human being tells him a lie.

Along the way, P.K. Pinkerton meets some other characters who throw light on this mysterious but completely gripping Wild West world. There is Whittlin Walt, the nasty villain so named because he takes his victims apart bit by bit, Belle the Soiled Dove, Sam Clemens later known to history as Mark Twain, Jace the poker-faced poker player, Ping, the Celestial that we would recognise as a Chinese boy, and so many more including P.K.'s natural mother, a Lakota or Sioux called Squats on a Stump.

This mix of the real, the funny, the exciting and the dangerous defines The Deadly Case of the Desperados as a fast and pacey read, full of so many little details that both entertain and educate in equal measure. P.K. Pinkerton is not a straightforward character. There is mystery in him so much so that you can never be that sure that he even is a him. He can work out any mathematical sum in his head, he doesn't show emotion and he doesn't see other people in quite the way others do. And so that leaves him vulnerable to great danger while also giving him enormous strength to face it. This side of P.K., the side that doesn't like to be touched but gradually lets people do just that, adds another dimension to this novel that pulls the heart right in.

The Case of the Deadly Desperados is such a good looking book. Little pictures open and close each chapter or Ledger Sheet while maps and diagrams give you a foot up into the case. Caroline Lawrence has a fantastic way of explaining a mystery, a set of circumstances or the methods of deduction - a delicious cake, for instance, is tortured and distorted for the sake of trying to visualise the way in which a mine is formed.

While the Wild West may seem a long way away for modern young readers, just like ancient Rome, after reading this book it's a safe bet to say that they will be all the wiser and the richer for it. Roll on P.K. Pinkerton's second mystery!
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on 29 March 2012
It's a brilliant and fantastic book. It's action-packed and you just don't know what is coming next. This book will take you on a cowboy adventure with Pinky as the guide, a guide with a BIG Achilles heel (or thorn as he calls it). He'll a meet friend, or is she a foe; two guys looking for a 'scoop' and Jace, a man who helps P.K. recover his thorn. P.K. is a double orphan, dead birth parents and dead foster parents. As his foster ma's dying wish, he runs away being chased by his foster parent's murderer as he carries a fortune every man wants.......
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