The P K Pinkerton Mysteries: The Case of the Good-looking Corpse by Caroline Lawrence
|The P K Pinkerton Mysteries: The Case of the Good-looking Corpse by Caroline Lawrence|
|Genre: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Linda Lawlor|
|Summary: It is 1862, and twelve-year-old PK has set up a private detective agency in Virginia City. His first case is both difficult and dangerous, as he has been asked to find the murderer of Miss Sally Sampson, a former Soiled Dove.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 313||Date: June 2012|
|External links: [www.pkpinkerton.com Author's website]|
PK is a skilled tracker with a keen eye and an excellent sense of smell. But he does suffer from a few disadvantages. Firstly, his Thorn: he has trouble understanding the expressions he sees on people's faces. Secondly, his Foible: he gets what his foster-mother used to call the Mulligrubs, going into a trance and rocking back and forth when things upset him. Thirdly, his Secret, which he is at great pains to conceal from everyone. And lastly, his Eccentricity: he loves to collect things. In this, the second book in the series, he begins to collect different kinds of tobacco.
Eccentric is certainly a word which can be applied to PK. He lives quite alone in a tiny room at the back of his office, and he moves with perfect innocence and ease among the lowest types of citizen in Virginia City. He models himself on Inspector Bucket, from Charles Dickens' Bleak House and hopes one day to work for his uncle Allan, who has recently founded the famous Pinkerton Detective Agency in Chicago. During the course of this exciting and humorous book, PK finds himself in saloons, a Chinese laundry and a morgue. He helps a surgeon to remove a bullet, and finally he ends up in jail accused of murder. It is his attempt to explain his connection to the crime that forms the main part of this book.
Life is hard in this Wild West mining town, and life is cheap — by the end of the story there are several corpses, good-looking and otherwise, piled up in the mortuary. There are lynchings and gunfights, and the shadow of the Civil War between the Confederates and the Union is never far away. People from dozens of countries end up here, trying to scratch a living or make a fortune in the mines, and prejudice against the Negroes and the Chinese is rife. Nonetheless PK's direct, if not to say blunt, way of speaking finds him a whole host of friends and advisers including Sam Clemens, later to be known as Mark Twain, a group of Soiled Doves and Poker Face Jace, who teaches him how to read people by watching their feet.
By the end of the book, the reader will have learned a great deal about life in a Wild West mining town, but quite painlessly: Ms Lawrence has a gift for selecting the single item or phrase which gives colour and background to the fast-moving adventure. You must read this book, if only to find out how a spittoon can save your life! It is thrilling, well-written and utterly engrossing, and it cannot be recommended highly enough. People wondered if Ms Lawrence was making a mistake by ending her popular and beautifully-researched series of detective stories set in Ancient Rome (Bookbag especially enjoyed The Prophet from Ephesus (The Roman Mysteries)) but she is forgiven: these Western stories are superbly good. Special mention must be made, by the way, of the delightful illustrations done by Ms Lawrence's husband: they capture the style of the time perfectly. Get this book from the library, or buy it, but be warned: stock up on sandwiches and lemonade before you start to read, because you will not want to put it down until the final shot has rung out and the murderer is revealed.
You can enjoy this second book without reading the first one, The Case of the Deadly Desperados but it is such a good story that it would be a pity to miss it. And as a couple of the desperados from that book have a habit of turning up here at the most inopportune moments, you'll know who to look out for. Another young detective from the last century can be found in the delightful Slightly Jones Mystery: The Case of the Glasgow Ghoul by Joan Lennon.
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