Search for the Red Ghost by Sherry Alexander
Publisher: MuseItUp Publishing
Genre: Historical, Western
Length: Full Length (152 Pages)
Age Recommendation: 10+
Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by: Myrtle
Thirteen-year-old Jake Thrasher’s mother is dead, and the only clues left by the beast that killed her are a few strands of red hair and a set of plate-sized tracks.
When his Army Scout father refuses to hunt it down, Jake takes matters into his own hands. Leaving the safety of his small ranch, Jake follows a sparse trail through an inhospitable desert filled with snakes, wolves, grizzlies, renegade Apache, and the ever-present threat of death. Will he find his Red Ghost? Or, will he succumb to the inherent dangers?
What is thirteen-year-old Jake supposed to do when his mother is murdered and his father doesn’t seem to care? Go after the murderer, of course.
Jake Thrasher is not yet a man, but that doesn’t sway his determined personality. After his mother is killed, Jake spots tufts of red hair and plate-sized hoof prints – clues to help track her killer – but his father is more interested in scouting for the U.S. Calvary than pursuing her murderer. Grief-stricken and feeling abandoned and misunderstood, Jake sets out on his own, unbeknownst to his father and his caretaker aunt. He intends to prove he is a man and avenge his mother’s death in the process.
This story is set in the deserts of Arizona during the late 1800s in the Apache vs Calvary era. It has an authentic air and realistic circumstances and conditions, which offers a worthy historical view. Grizzlies, a mountain lion, rattlesnakes, renegade Apache, and Mother Nature all have a hand in disrupting Jake’s journey across the desert as he follows the trail left by the “red ghost.”
The descriptions and historical circumstances are the strongest aspects of this story, but unfortunately, I found the character development weaker than expected. Jake’s age wavered (in action and voice) between eight and eighteen instead of thirteen throughout the story. In the beginning, I had a hard time seeing Jake as anything more than a ten-year-old, but by mid-story his voice and character could easily have been perceived as sixteen or older. Adding to the feeling of age confusion was in meeting nine-year-old Lucy mid-story. Jake and Lucy’s bond formed quickly, and had I not kept reminding myself of their ages, their relationship could easily have been perceived to be between two sixteen-year-olds rather than a nine-year-old girl and a thirteen-year-old boy. Nothing inappropriate, just confusing character development.
This is a slow-paced story about a boy tracking day after day after day through the desert in search of an elusive beast who he believes has murdered his mother. Until the end, it was never clear to me whether the beast itself killed his mother, or was the beast accompanying a person? It added to the mystery, but although that particular question was answered, others were not leaving me with the feeling that the story concluded too quickly without tying up all the loose ends.
However, readers wanting an authentic historical view of this time in America will not be disappointed. This writer’s research warrants a gold star. If you’re looking for historical fiction with a youthful western flair, this is a worthy read.