Author: Stefan Petrucha

Publication: 2012, Philomel

Pages: 426

Overall Rating:  bth_45_zps06f87659[1]                      

Rating for Action: bth_4-star-rating_zps38e772a0[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_3-star-rating_zps73bdba73[1]

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary: Carver Young is an orphan in 1895 New York who dreams of being a detective.  His dream comes true when he is taken in by Albert Hawking, a former detective with the famous Pinkerton Agency.  Hawking introduces Carver to a secret organization – the New Pinkertons – and Carver soon finds himself surrounded by detectives and an amazing array of cool gadgets.  Hawking challenges Carver to use some of the resources available at the New Pinkertons to hone his detective skills by uncovering the identity of his father.  But the investigation soon crosses paths with the dangerous and far more deadly search for a serial killer.

 Character: 14

What I Liked the Most: Petrucha does a fantastic job of setting the scene, creating the sensation that we really are in 1895 New York, and weaving in the very real characters of Teddy Roosevelt – who was New York City Police Commissioner at the time before he went on to become President of the United States – and Jack the Ripper.  His Ripper may be fictional, but Petrucha manages to make the man fit seamlessly with what little we do know about the real Ripper, who haunted the streets of London in 1888.

Mixed in with all this real history are the New Pinkertons and their amazing gadgets – a steam powered car, a giant steam powered computer, a stun baton, an automatic lock picking device, and more.  This gave the book a steampunk feel, but at the end Petrucha lays out in a few brief pages how most of the items were either real at the time or had at least been designed on paper.

Overall, this is a seamless blend of historical mystery and steampunk, and a great swashbuckling adventure.

What I Liked the Least: My only complaint, and it doesn’t amount to much, is that Petrucha more or less makes it clear within the first 15 pages that Carver’s father is the Ripper.  Sorry if that feels like a spoiler.  But believe me, it’s not.  I would have preferred it if he’d made the initial clues a little cloudier, so it wouldn’t become clear who Carver’s father was until later in the book.  That said, Petrucha does manage to drop a major bombshell right near the end – one you’d have to be very observant to suspect more than a couple of dozen pages ahead of time.

How Good was the Action? While this is mostly an adventure story, there are moments of swashbuckling action that are well executed and a lot of fun – especially the climax that takes place on an out of control train.  The Ripper is just human enough to make him terrifyingly real without going off the deep end into comic villainy.  And when young Carver has to face off against him, the result is a heat-pounding good time.

How Engaging was the Story? While Carver may be facing an impossible task, Petrucha has provided him with a solid set of friends, a few good gadgets, and plenty of motivation.  Weave in the real life characters of Roosevelt and Jack the Ripper along with a sprinkling of steampunk magic and it’s impossible to put down.  This was one rollicking good adventure and I look forward to more of Carver Young.

Profanity: Some, but it’s very mild.

Sex: A chaste kiss or two, but nothing more.

Violence: Some, but while violence does take place and people do get killed it’s not particularly bloody and generally has a swashbuckling feel to it.

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