2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 26 September 2011
This was a brilliant book, it had my son totally hooked from page one. He had met the author at a book convention and she had talked about this particular book, he now wants to read more of her novels. He would certainly recommend this book.
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!
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 4 June 2011
This is the best book I've read in ages. It's brilliantly plotted, has fantastic characters and was like stepping between the pages and finding yourself in the Wild West. I had no idea what to expect when I started reading, and I was surprised and delighted all the way through. I can't describe why without giving away too much, but would just simply encourage you to read it for yourself It's a gem.
on 9 May 2012
The Case of the Deadly Desperados is a gripping rollercoaster of a ride right from the first scene where PK (Pinkie) finds his foster parents lying dead. The quest of Whittlin Walt and his Pards to find the letter that entitles Pinkie a fortunes worth of silver takes you on an epic journey.
The book lives out Pinkie's uncertainty about understanding people - his thorn - so that we, like him, are unclear about whether if they are good or bad. Belle Donne for example is a very difficult character to read. At the beginning she is helping him by hiding him under her skirt. Then we discover that she is only acting the part to get the letter to get her hands on the money. As Belle says ` It's is every man for himself here in Virginia'. Even her name paints the picture of a beautiful but dangerous plant.
As a huge fan of the Roman Mysteries it took a little time to get used to this `new world.' But you gradually immerse the reader into all the sights and smells of the time. The way you write is so immensely detailed and description of everything is amazing. I love the fact that it has all the colloquialisms of the wild west which I think adds depth to the realness of the story.
I can't wait for the next book to find out what happens on the next leg of PK's adventure.
on 21 June 2012
The Good Looking Corpse begins within hours of the previous book finishing. The streets of Virginia City are teeming with young gunfighters battling it out to take the place of Whittlin' Walt as the 'Chief of the Comstock Desperadoes'. The self-styled and self-schooled detective, P.K. Pinkerton is nursing the bullet injury sustained in the previous story and wondering if anyone will ever take a twelve year old detective seriously when a black servant girl called Martha turns up asking for help. Martha has witnessed the murder of her mistress, 'Short' Sally Simpson, and is convinced that the murderer is now after her too. P.K. can't resist the case, of course, and immediately embarks on an enquiry that takes the reader on a rollercoaster trip through the seemier parts of Virginia City in the company of a glorious cast of larger than life wild west characters and keeps P.K. and the reader guessing as to the identity of the killer right to the very end of the story.
And it's all enormous fun!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 31 March 2012
This is a very well structured and exiting book. It keeps you on your toes and however much you try you can't put it down.Every character has a trick up their sleve so expect the unexpected with this book. This book may be very christian but it's politically uncorrect with saloons and hurdy girls. I love it.
on 16 April 2012
You know a children's book is good when you can enjoy it whatever age you are, and The Case of the Deadly Desperados fits this description perfectly. Caroline Lawrence has struck gold in setting her new series in the Wild West of 1862, a time and place neglected for far too long. And in PK Pinkerton she's created a brave, clever, touching and totally original detective character who in spite of the fact that he can't help blurting his thoughts out to everyone he meets, still manages to outwit the sadistic killers on his trail. A real page-turner with a climax that has echoes of the scary bits of Tom Sawyer (Sam Clemens even has a part in the story, with a delightful version of where he got the idea of changing his name to Mark Twain) - I loved it. Oh, and I'll be so mesmerised by watching what people do with their feet from now on I'll probably fall over my own....