I knew from the first I heard about Caroline Lawrence’s plans to write Western Mysteries that she was on to a good thing. Our generation had plenty of westerns in the shape of films and television series, back when we were a wee bit younger than we are now.
The result is even better than I could have imagined, and I enjoyed P.K. Pinkerton’s first adventure with the Deadly Desperados a lot. Set in Virginia City in 1862 it features Mark Twain among the real people who happened to be there. (Nice enough, but a bit of a prat.)
P.K. – or Pinky – has been orphaned for the second time, and has to escape his foster parents’ murderers. This is easier said than done, but he’s a brave and resourceful 12-year-old, with ambitions to become a detective like his long lost real father.
Pinky is also an aspie, which pleases me no end, and it works so well for Caroline’s plot purposes. Usually child detectives are portrayed as a little naïve in order to make a point, but here we have Pinky’s ‘handicap’ instead. He can’t read people’s faces, and consequently has some narrow escapes. His foster mother seems to have been good at giving him tips, and eventually he picks up some more useful tricks that stand him in good stead.
His foster parents’ murderers are after him for the same reason they orphaned Pinky, and they are a vicious lot. Not everyone in Virginia City can be trusted. In fact, few people can be trusted in this gold rush era.
I don’t want to give away too much, so won’t mention all the people Pinky meets, but there are Celestials and Soiled Doves and gamblers, not to mention girls desperate for a kiss; ‘What is it about Virginia City? The people either want to kill you or kiss you.’
Quite a problem.
As with the Roman Mysteries, the mystery itself is a fairly simple one, but that only means we can concentrate on all the wonderful historical facts (I do feel for Caroline for having to put up with all that research…) and the beautiful humour of Pinky’s situation.
I can’t wait for my next Western Mystery.