My rating: 4 of 5 stars
P.K. Pinkerton is an unusual protagonist, for a few reasons. First, he is a twice orphaned 12 year old boy alone in the wild west of the late 1890s Nevada silver mining country, a wild place of lawlessness, sin, and frequent random shootings. Second, he is half Sioux indian and half anglo-american, and his father was the elder brother of the famous Allan Pinkerton, who founded the Pinkerton Railway Detectives. And third, and perhaps most importantly, he manifests behaviors symptomatic of what today we would call Asperger’s Syndrome. He has a photographic memory and is very good at mental math, but he struggles with human emotions, both showing his own as well as figuring out how the people around him are feeling. He calls this his “thorn”, and it is indeed both a curse as well as a blessing, at times.
In this, the first P.K. Pinkerton book, P.K.’s adoptive parents, a methodist preacher and his wife, have been murdered by a gang of desperados led by Whittlin’ Walt, known for whittling pieces off of his victims before killing them, all whilst quoting Walt Whitman (super creepy). Walt made the murders look like they were committed by the local Paiute indians by scalping them, but P.K. manages to find them before his adopted mother passes away and finds out the truth of the murders, and that the desperados were looking for something P.K. himself has tucked away into the medicine bag of his Sioux mother — the deed to a huge chunk of the Comstock Lode that could potentially make him a millionaire. But first he has to get away from Whittlin’ Walt and his pards, as well as every other ne’erdowell in Virginia City who would like to part him with his unexpected boon. In the process, he will make new friends, including Sam Clemens, local reporter (and yes, it is THAT Sam Clemens, the one who will later call himself Mark Twain).
I loved this book, and especially the character of P.K., and the setting was perfectly depicted. There are developments at the end of the book that are very promising, and I can’t wait to read the next installment!