I bought this book thinking it was about an actual war. Turns out…
It seems there’s a thief in Four Corners. Chickens are disappearin’ left and right and times are getting plumb tough. Pinch is glad that at least he and Charley and Mr. John Brown have a shedful of muskrat hides that they can turn into money one of these days. If only they could catch the thief!
And then, one day as they sit tanning more hides, a man comes along. Says his name is Mr. Short, and would they watch this burlap bag filled with valuables, please? The boys don’t see why not – and the silver dollar they’ll get when he returns is a big why so. But then comes along a little lady named Mrs. Long, and before Charley and Pinch know it, John Brown has traded in all of their muskrat hides for what appears to be a sack full of dog skins! Pinch and Charley just have an inkling that they may know who the Four Corners’ thief – or rather thieves – are! But how can they catch them?
You know how sometimes you read a book, and some of the characters are so PERPETUALLY IDIOTIC that you just want to grab them and give them a good spanking? I WANTED TO GIVE SPANKINGS TO ALMOST EVERY STINKING CHARACTER IN THIS BOOK. Seriously. Pinch and Charley were fine. Pinch and Charley’s parents were fine. But almost everyone else deserved to be spanked, most especially John Brown.
I’m not even sure if John Brown was an adult or a child. But he was utterly brainless and even criminal. When the swindlers first come through, he greedily sells Pinch and Charley’s pelts to them against the boys’ wills. Even after he knows he’s been swindled, he still goes along willingly with Mr. Short’s plan to steal Pinch’s goat. Then he tells them where Pinch’s father keeps his most valuable hides. I’m still rather angry at him.
Which shows that Larry Callen has a degree of talent. It takes talent to create irritating characters. And the story itself was cleverly created – the style was a bit tall-taley, filled as it was with funky scenarios and odd-ball names. I would be very interested to read a continuing story with these characters and this setting.
The swindlers elicit the location of Pinch’s father’s pelts from John Brown by appealing to his sense of the supernatural. First they tell him that he is a “Halloween Child” [because he was born on Halloween] and that this means he knows about things like secret hiding places, etc. When John still balks at telling them, Mrs. Long pretends to be mediumistic and “summons up the spirit” of John’s dead father to tell him to tell them the location. John is fooled by this, but anyone who knows anything about séances knows this is staged.
Variations of God’s name are used four times, and darn once.
Conclusion. This story didn’t really contain any historical information, but it was still enjoyable to a certain degree. I’ll be looking for The Muskrat War’s prequel, The Deadly Mandrake.
Review © 2014 Laura Verret