Book Review: “The Case of the Deadly Desperados” By Caroline Lawrence

Please note: I first published this book review on the “Goodreads”-platform on October 10, 2022. I’ve now decided to publish some of my reviews on my website.

My rating: 4 (of 5) “stars”

I bought a paperback copy which was published in 2012 by Orion Children’s Books. Here’s a link to the author’s personal website.
ISBN: 978 1 4440 0325 3

P. K. (“Pinky”) Pinkerton is a wonderful, complex, and very sympathetic character. He’s 12 years old, the story is told in the first person, through his eyes.

Caroline Lawrence does a great job telling the story with a 12-year old’s voice: it’s totally believable, and at times, funny and cute. When Pinky writes about a “Sweet of Rooms,” I laughed out loud. And when he describes his “thorn,” that’s exactly the way a 12-year old would talk.

Also, the story’s plot is inventive, unusual, and I wasn’t bored at all, even though this is a book for young adults, and I am 55 years old. All in all, I really liked this book!

The writer frequently uses ampersands (“&”) instead of writing the word “and,” which I find a bit weird, but I got used to it.

But I don’t think that this book, which is marketed to children and teenagers, is suitable for young readers, due to graphic descriptions of violence (I couldn’t find out the exact age group, for which this book was written).

Spoiler alert:
Pinky’s foster parents are murdered in a gruesome manner, a man’s finger is cut off in front of Pinky, and there’s a pony whose existence can only be described by using the words “animal cruelty” — I would recommend this book to teenagers who are 15+ years old, but not to younger children. It’s perfect for older teenagers, but not for younger readers.

At the back of the book, there’s a glossary where Caroline Lawrence explains a few words, including “celestials” – a “slang” for Chinese people; I think the word “slang” doesn’t convey properly that this word was used as a derogatory ethnic slur; and the words Indians, Injuns, and negro are also used throughout the book. These words were all used in the 1860s, but I think today’s young readers need additional information/context, when such words are used for dialogue in historical fiction books. Or maybe the use of these words could’ve (should’ve) been avoided at all?

I think that issue could’ve been handled better, or at least more information could’ve been included in the glossary about the fact that these are all derogatory words from the past, and should not be used in this day and age when talking to or about other people.

The writer uses the terms “soiled doves” and “hurdy girls” as synonyms for prostitutes, and in the glossary only explains that these terms describe women who worked in saloons or brothels (without explaining what a brothel is). I do think it’s very funny that she’s coy about prostitution, but depicts acts of extreme violence in detail. I think that the issue of prostitution was handled age-appropriately, and that’s how I wish she would’ve described acts of violence: a little more vaguely.

One more thing: Do not enter the URL listed at the back cover of this edition of the book, which is a URL dedicated to the book series. The publishing house let the rights to this URL go, and it’s now used by a p**n site. If you buy this book as a gift to a child, use a black marker to make it invisible, or just tear the part of the back cover off, which lists the URL.

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