Author: Eddie Jones
Series: (The Caden Chronicles) Book #1
Published- November 1st, 2012
Nick's been dragged along to go on a family vacation to an old Wild West town where cowboy actors play the part of the most well know outlaws - Jessie James, Billy the Kid, Annie Oakley, and more. Nick's dreading hanging out in an old town where there is no cell reception, no internet, and surely there is nothing fun to do. That all changes when Nick discovers a dead body in a barn but when he goes to tell the marshal by the time the marshal sends someone out to check if there is a murder case on their hands the body is gone. There are no blood stains to corroborate Nick's claim. They all say it was probably just part of the act. There are projections to make it look like someone was shot and there are trapdoors to take the "bodies" away to put on a good show. Nick doesn't buy it. He knows what he saw and he will find the truth no matter what it costs even if he has to put his own life in danger.
Back home Nick has this detective club where him and a bunch of friends use this computer system to help solve crimes they see on television shows. It's all fun and games but not to Nick. He takes it all seriously. He even comments from time to time what he does with his friends which I don't think is a good move if you want someone to take you seriously but it at least gives you some background on the story. He is determined to figure out what happened to Billy the Kid, the actor's stage name who's body he found, who supposedly left for Hollywood after he got a role in a movie. Nick is very analytical and knows what questions to ask and what questions he should not just in case that the person he is talking to is the killer. He gets to ask these questions because he was deputized by the marshal so he wouldn't go blabbing about an imagined murder to the other customers. Most people he talks to humor him but they usually end up getting offended by what he asks which makes you know that he doesn't pull any punches. Meanwhile his parents go along with it like it's okay that they never see their son around on their vacation. These are the most irresponsible parents I've met in a while in a book. How could you let your kid wonder off in a strange place? He's fourteen (or thirteen I was confused about his age because he's not supposed to be fourteen till a month or something but they keep on saying he's fourteen...) which makes him a minor who you know likes to get in trouble. You need to pay attention to your child before he gets killed!
He partners up (sort of) with the Annie Oakley of the town who's real name is Annabel. She's Nick's same age with freckles all over her face and a tomboy attitude. She is sent to keep an eye on him by her uncle (the marshal) to make sure he doesn't get into too much trouble. That proves to not have helped because wherever this boy goes trouble follows him. He's raising tough questions all the while the killer could be planning his accidental death for all we know. Nick is brazen and just goes with everything. I feel like I kind if missed something with his story because the parents think he will cause some trouble before the vacation begins, they keep on talking about this computer program, and his club back home. It just felt like I was reading a sequel instead of the first story sometimes. I really wish Annie and possibly his little sister Wendy would have been part of the story more. I think there was a missed opportunity with Wendy not being by her brother's side helping solve the case. She's going to go with him wherever the series takes them so why not let her be her annoying self that contributes her own opinions to help solve cases? It makes perfect sense! I don't mind the parents being in the background because that usually happens anyways but I want to see the sister more.
I really liked where the mystery took me. There were various amounts of suspects even people who surprised me. Nick did a good job investigating and letting me see the different possible motives and see the sides of people that make them look like the killer. There was a moment where I felt like this person seems like the killer. It made sense that they were and guess what? I was right. I don't think it was obvious especially not the motive. The motive came out of nowhere for me. I think it just clicked with me but with others it just might not. Everything was really good about this book except one or two things including me wanting Wendy more in the story. I also felt that it was a little unrealistic that Nick's parents and other adults would let him go around and humor him about a murder. It was a little strange but I can understand that younger kids may not see it that way. There was also a little religious thing I can see going on. There was mention of it once and I kind of brushed it aside because it wasn't a big deal. It was just part of this story and it was just a little part for those of you who don't like that in their books. But, then I see where it's possibly leading into this whole religious case next time... I don't know if I would want to read it. I am curious to see what the next story will bring anyways.
With this story I have to say I really enjoyed it no matter what little things I nitpicked on earlier. It's a very "boy" book that I think reluctant readers will like especially with the setting being the Wild West and it being about murder but I also think girls will equally like it based upon the mystery and Annie's character. The story is very different than what I'm used to which I love. Nick's journey is something new to me and I really enjoyed the way he thought. He was a great blend of calm and impulsive at the same time. He was confident in what he doing and gave us a real good show in his own way.
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