The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is an American Legend which vies with the Tale Tales of Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill, yet contains a flicker of truth mixed in with the myth. Emma Bowman has taken aspects of this story and woven it into her own fictionalized version of events using some of the known historical facts to give her western tale a touch of reality.
Vengeance Row begins with heroine Kate Tompkins down at the creek hauling water where she sees smoke and rushes home to discover her house burning and her father hanging from a tree with the mark of a rose carved into his forehead. After burying her dad next to the grave of her mother, she rides off on her horse Silver, disguised as a boy, to avenge this seemingly senseless death. First, however, she must stop at Abe Colton’s house (according to her father’s instructions) where she finds a letter explaining the reason for his death. Kate would never have guessed that the murderers were after her dad’s diary with directions to a hidden gold mine her parents had found up in The Superstition Mountains, east of Phoenix, Arizona. Although Abe is dead, his sons insist they accompany “Nate” (Kate’s disguised name) on her journey. Along the way they discover the identity of the murderers, the dreaded Red Rose Riders, led by vile Waylon Rose. Kate, Will and Jesse Colton, and Apache Liluye travel together, each pursuing their own goals while on the tail of the vicious gang. The resulting mayhem leads to an unanticipated climax which is guaranteed to surprise the reader.
Meant for young adults, this violent story is full of death via bee stings, hangings, shoot outs, Apache massacres, fires, and illness. Even the main characters aren’t safe from harm. There is a touch of romance once Kate’s true identity is discovered, but the journey through the haunted mountains in pursuit of revenge is the main focus. Taking place in 1877 Arizona, there is a map of the area at the beginning of the book so the reader can follow their trail. The tale is told in first person present tense using the supposed vernacular of the times which gets a little getting used to, but flows along at a brisk, richly detailed pace. At times the dialogue seems a little hokey or cliched with phrases such as: “Ain’t nothing more to it than that.” or “She’s the only thing left between me and the dark quiet of my own thoughts.” However, it is a western with the main character a tough eighteen year old female who is as capable as any man. The young age of the heroes who are able to outwit their elders is always appealing to YA readers. Four stars for the successful weaving of Kate’s story with the Lost Dutchman legend.
A thank you to Netgalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review. This review also appears on Goodreads.