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This may not be a real cowboy western, but hey, it’s set in one of those make-believe cowboy towns that I saw in the “Sweet Valley series” and that I always wanted to visit (whew, that’s a long sentence).

Dead Man’s Hand is the first in the series of The Caden Chronicles, which I’m guessing is a mystery series. In this book, Nick Caden, our protagonist, is at a family vacation in Deadwood Canyon Ghost Town. He’s just arrived when he finds the dead body of Billy the Kid. BUT, when he alerts the sheriff, the body’s gone! And thanks to an agreement between the Sheriff and his father, Nick’s allowed to investigate – under certain conditions.

I suppose that since this was the author’s first book, he’s still getting into the hang of things. My biggest problem with the book was the narration. It’s told in first-person form, but somehow, it doesn’t feel right. I remember being fourteen, and while I wasn’t that mature, I didn’t remember being so bratty. Honestly, I’ll believe it if Nick was like, ten. I’m not sure why, it was just a feeling I got.

The plot was, ok. Nothing spectacular, but it’s about the same as most YA mystery novels. I’m already thinking of re-reading the book to see what clues I missed, because the culprit was nothing like I expected.

Finally, the whole spirit/death theme. I think, that the book may have overemphasised the whole spiritual thing in the blurb, because it felt like this was added in last minute. Sure, there was the mysterious Bible with the relevant versus highlighted (and props to the author for doing what Chesterton suggested and making the familiar seem unfamiliar), but I don’t recall it helping the plot in a noticable way. And why did Nick suddenly want to investigate the mystery of Jesus?

But I think, the whole review can be summed up in this – I read the book in one sitting. That should tell you how compelling it is.

Disclaimer: I received a free book from the publisher in exchange for a free and honest review.


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Published on 22 October, 2012. Last updated on

4 Comments

  1. Gina Holmes

    Thoughtful review. I enjoyed this Hardy Boys-esque mystery and more importantly my 10 year old son did and it’s hard to get him to read anything!

  2. Eddie Jones

    Eustacia,thanks for putting a plug in for Dead Man’s Hand and my Buy a Boy a Book campaign. You know some of this but I thought I’d share a few thoughts with your fans on why I write for boys (of all ages):

    • One child in four grows up not knowing how to read.
    • 3 out of 4 food stamp recipients perform in the lowest 2 literacy levels.
    • 90% of welfare recipients are high school dropouts.
    • 14% of Americans are considered functionally illiterate, meaning they cannot read well enough to function productively in a school or work environment.
    • 29% of Americans are low-level, functionally literate. They read only enough to do their job and get through the day.
    • 44% of Americans are highly functionally literate but prefer to receive information orally.
    • Over 60% of adults in the US prison system read at or below the fourth grade level
    • 85% of US juvenile inmates are functionally illiterate

    All this is to say, the world has gotten more verbal and boys haven’t.

    Boys act out, cut up and engage with their world through action and aggression. And yet books are built around dialogue, creating scenes and examining the connection between characters: all skills that require creative thinking and mental imaging. Given the increasing sophistication of gaming and role-playing we need to provide boys with books that engage their imagination and spur creative thinking. If we can get one boy to read one book, help one young man learn to think creatively, we are well on our way to solving many of our nation’s problems.

    Readers are Leaders: Buy a Boy a Book. Thanks, Eustacia.

    (CAUTION: shameless plug for the book follows. Reader discretion advised.)

    Dead Man’s Hand: Aces over Eights with a bullet as a kicker. Boys love things that go “BHAM!” and that is Dead Man’s Hand – gunfights, train robberies, bank bandits and one boy’s search for the truth about death, dying and the afterlife. Dead Man’s Hand – the first in the Caden Chronicles series (where spooks, vampires and zombies don’t stand a “ghost” of a chance).

    • Eustacia Tan

      Hi Eddie,

      Thanks for your comments! I heard of some of the facts you mentioned, but I didn’t have the hard numbers or anything. They’re really enlightening(:

      And I totally agree, “Readers are Leaders.”

      ^_^

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Into the Book was born out of a crazy idea of a blog that'd provide book reviews for teens. There aren't very many book review websites out there exposing awesome, high-quality Christian literature, and there are even fewer that target teenagers. Since 2009, we've been providing high-quality book reviews to the world through our blog. Into the Book has grown around reviews since then, but it remains our oldest project.

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