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Book Reviews

Milt Gross Book Review: "The Dead Cattle Ranch Mystery" by Madeleine Carroll
By Milton M. Gross
Jan 5, 2014 - 12:05:16 AM

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The Dead Cattle Ranch Mystery has an attention-grabbing cover, and the juvenile story is pretty good. Milt Gross photo.
The publisher, Xlibris, likens this juvenile mystery to the old Hardy Boys series. It's not that good, but it's pretty good nonetheless.

I found only a couple of typos, which is not bad compared to most of the self-published books I've reviewed, which means either the author paid to have it edited by the self-publisher or she did a great job herself in going over her manuscript.

The plot is logical and is told through the eyes of Frank, the lead character. The only plot problems I found were a handful of times when the author wrote a line or paragraph as if she had already written the earlier lines to explain the current. But she hadn't. For example, on page 232, she writes, "...The whole town knows they're getting married, so they don't have to keep it a secret any more."

On page 215, a Mrs. Mc Farley is talking to Frank and his friend, Jackson. She says, when they asked why a Mr. Porter had come to her back door and if everything was all right, "Of course everything's all right. You might as well be the first to know. We're getting married. We've been seeing each other for a while, but we didn't want the whole town to know right away. We had to make sure we knew how we felt about each other first. You know how rumors fly around here.

"'It's wonderful news,' Frank said. 'Your secret's safe with us, isn't it, Jackson.'"

There is no indication between those two pages that the secret had been disclosed to anyone. This is one of those places where I think the author forgot to write in between that the secret had been revealed.

My guess is that Carroll was in a hurry writing the book and didn't think carefully about connections between passages that she forgot to write.

Hey, writing a first book is exciting. I don't blame her too much, except that it makes the tale a bit confusing.

A part of the story that annoyed me are references to Christianity, such as, "Lord, we need rain for the cattle. It's mighty dry out here." My problem is a question; is Carroll writing a secular or a Christian story? Is she trying to affect reader's behavior or beliefs? She doesn't seem to be trying to "convert" the reader, but I find these Christian comments a bit disconcerting. Or is she just writing a story and what the characters say?

I think if you're writing a Christian story, somewhere in the book it could say so. If you're sneaking in the Christian part, is that Christian? This question has annoyed me for some time, as I have contemplated some of my own scribbling by keyboard.

Madeleine Carroll is a teacher and is active in her church.

The story is a good juvenile. Frank and his mother move to a ranch, while Frank's father is in the armed forces in Germany. The boy has to learn to ride and do ranch chores, which he does. The mystery is that cattle are dying, and Frank takes it upon himself to become the sleuth who solves the mystery. Despite too many comments that folks in the small town resent outsiders, hey, say it once -- Frank and friend follow some clues, get themselves kidnapped by the bad guys, but free themselves when left alone by the bad guys who had tied them to chairs.

And they solve the mystery. If you or your juvenile reader want to know any more, buy the book for $22.99 hardcover, $15.99 softcover, or $3.99 as an E reader.

Xlibris is a self-publishing company, which means the writer pays them to publish a manuscript as a book. The company offers a number of extra services, such as editing and items connecting with the book's printing and distribution. These companies have arisen due to traditional book publishing companies being bought out by other companies, so there are fewer traditional publishers to try with a manuscript.

I have nothing against self-publishers, but I recommend the author check offers out carefully and make sure the manuscript is as correct as the author can make it before sending it to a self- publisher. And, no, the writer is probably not helping the manuscript by skipping offerings by the self-publisher.

Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at

Milton M. Gross Copyright 2013

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