Friday, November 23, 2012

The Case of the Deadly Desperados by Carolyn Lawrence

Giddyup! A western/detective story for kids with nonstop action, great characters, and nice plot twists. Pull out your imaginary pistols and enjoy this surprising book. Our hero, P.K. Pinkerton begins this tale from the bottom of a cave because he is about to be killed. He has witnessed the murder of his ma and pa who were scalped by Whittlin' Walt and his 'pards in search of a document that will make them rich. Twelve-year-old P.K. holds that document and is on the run as they hunt him down.

P.K. lands in Virginia City where he meets a host of characters who help him and steal from him. While it looks like most are just varying degrees of badness, they are really helping P.K. learn to socialize and read people. P.K. has a problem. He can't decipher people's facial expressions or emotions. He is more than just too trusting and naive. While in the 1860's there was no such thing as Asperger's, it would appear that P.K. is autistic. I didn't pick up on this at first because of the humorous way it is presented and the fact that I miss details like P.K. reads people. There is an excellent NY Times review on the book.

There are some great plot twists especially at the end. I did get a little tired in the middle of P.K. making silly mistakes (if I had thought about the autistic angle then I probably wouldn't have), but they move the plot forward as he learns to socialize. The characters are interesting enough that I kept going but I did put it down just before I got to the part on Jace. Poker Face Jace is fascinating in the way he helps P.K. and it wasn't until I got to his character that I had my "ah-ha" moment and saw what the author was doing with the characters to help P.K. grow up and become more independent.

There is some adult humor that young readers are not going to get and some of the violence unnecessary, but I did laugh. At the humor not the violence... The narrator tones down or filters the cursing saying that he won't write it because it is not fit for publication or misspells the word leaving out vowels. This was on a some Newbery prediction lists but it can't win because it was published in the U.K. and Lawrence doesn't live in the U.S. Rats! A terrific book.

Reading Level 5.8
4 out of 5 Smileys

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