Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Bret King #1 Ghost Canyon and #2 Hermit's Peak

Sometime years ago, I owned the first two titles in the Bret King series and tried reading some of the first book.  I was completely turned off by Benny's catch phrase, "Well, gee my wheeze."  This expression is uttered by Benny over and over again and is quite annoying.  The expression is first used on page three and was enough to scare me off.  I sold those two books.  After all, I did not like boys' series at that time.  This summer, I decided that I would try the series again and would purchase and read all nine titles, regardless of what I thought of Benny's pet expression.

In Bret King #1, The Mystery of Ghost Canyon, cattle are being rustled from Rimrock Ranch.  The boys also learn about a string of bank robberies.  Meanwhile, two scientists rent Benny Ortega's home, then proceed to warn everyone away.  Bret and his friends know the men are up to something.  The boys work to find the rustlers as they investigate the strange behavior of the two men.

While Benny's catch phrase was annoying, I simply ignored it as best I could each time it appeared, so I was not bothered much.

I found it a little hard to keep all the boys straight in my head, since they were all introduced very quickly and were present together in many scenes.  This took away slightly from my enjoyment of the story, but it wasn't that big of a problem.

As is typical in series books, the book has two seemingly unconnected mysteries, the rustled cattle and bank robberies.  It comes as no surprise when the mysteries turn out to be intertwined.

This book reminds me a lot of the Nancy Drew books of the 1960s.  In particular, the book contains plot devices that are similar to those books.  For instance, the culprits in this Bret King book use bull ornaments to identify themselves to each other.  As one culprit says on page 179, "That was another of -----'s trick ideas—carrying those fool bulls as a gang identification.  I warned him they would get us in trouble."  Indeed.  I was reminded of the Nancy Drew book, The Scarlet Slipper Mystery, when the villains use a passport number as identification.  These gangs in series books are not that large, so they hardly need to use some stupid means to identify themselves to each other.

While I enjoyed the first half of the book, it is nothing special.  The second half of the book is more interesting, and I was pleased with my reading experience when I finished the book.

In Bret King #2, The Secret of Hermit's Peak, one of Rusty's colts is killed by a mountain lion.  The boys search for the cat up near Hermit's Peak and are warned away by 'Ol Whiskers, the hermit.  'Ol Whiskers has a cache of gold hidden near the peak, and he is determined to protect it at all cost.  Meanwhile, several criminals have begun threatening 'Ol Whiskers to reveal the secret of his gold.

I like that both of Bret's younger siblings, sixteen-year-old Jinx and twelve-year-old Rusty, go along on some of the hunts.  Jinx can drive and does drive the boys around at times, and it's nice for a girl to take on a leadership role in a boy's series.

I feel like these books almost have too many primary characters.  While logical to have a group of seven or more people assisting, it's too much for a reader to appreciate.  It's like when Beverly Gray is accompanied by the Lucky Circle on an excursion.  Too many characters are present in the scene. 

I greatly enjoyed the main part of the story, but I got bored towards the end.  By that point, I felt like the boys kept going up and down the mountain over and over without much happening.  Since I was bored, I skimmed some of the text towards the end of the story.

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