The Case of the Deadly Desperados

Written by Caroline Lawrence
Review by Helen Papworth

Pinky, full name P.K. Pinkerton, is trapped in a Virginia mine shaft waiting for her (or is it his?) fate. Born in Hard Luck in 1850, Pinky’s 12th birthday was marked by the death of foster parents and being chased by their three ruthless killers who seek a valuable object. As they pursue Pinky across the western United States, others offer help but Pinky does not know whom to trust confessing that ‘people confound me.’ Pinky takes on various disguises in an attempt to escape them and seeks a new role working for the Pinkerton Detective Agency. A seven shooter provides some protection, but it does not safeguard Pinky from the dangers of a Wild West town, especially from the cruel ‘Whittlin Walt’ and his two sidekicks.

Lawrence rewrites Pinky’s story with passion, telling it through the words of the child whose occasional lack of knowledge and confusion comes across in the text. Pinky’s personality develops through the pages and the many other characters encountered come to life on the pages – though more than one risks death. Weapons are frequently used and the reader is not spared the gruesome details.

Some terms are difficult to understand (though there is a glossary), and there is a large cast of characters – it is a book that requires concentration – but most children will be captivated by this hero, and the page-turning action. Readers may already know Caroline Lawrence’s Roman Mysteries series: this is the first in the Western Mysteries. As ever, she provides excellent backup materials with her website and Facebook page. This book also has beautiful pen and ink illustrations by the author’s husband.