If you had a long lost relative, what do you think would be the best way to go about trying to find him? Ten-year-old double cousins Max Rawson and Carly Johnson, along with Max’s younger brother Chad and Carly’s older sister Dorie and younger sister Molly, all arrive for their annual summer visit to their grandparents’ ranch. To help them pass the time away, Grandpa suggests that they try to uncover the mystery surrounding his grandfather’s twin brother Zachary who left home at the age of eighteen to seek his fortune in the West more than 100 years ago and was never heard from again. The only clue is Grandpa’s pocket watch which is an exact match to the one Zachary carried. Their search is complicated by the arrival of a new ranch hand named Slim, a young man who left his family and has been homeless but has a watch that appears similar to Grandpa’s. Will the children be able to solve the mystery about Zachary? And can Slim be trusted or does he have something to hide?
I have the privilege of reading and reviewing a lot of books for young people, and this is truly one of the best stories that I have read in a good while! First, it is very realistic. In fact, author Miriam Jones Bradley wrote, “This book is a work of fiction. However, many of the events portrayed in this story are based on the experiences my cousins, siblings, and I had as children visiting our grandparents’ ranch….Sadly, we never had a mystery to solve as the children in this story do. The seed of the idea for the mystery did, however, come from a true-life event. My Great-great-grandpa Jones left home to find work and never returned.” The children are not portrayed as perfect. Max especially is suspicious of Slim and grumpy because of it, and they do make some mistakes, but their grandparents lovingly help them to see their errors and correct them. In the process, they learn some valuable lessons about forgiveness and acceptance. And second, it is well-written and fun to read! The suspense will keep youngsters turning the pages, and the surprise ending will be a delight. The Double Cousins and the Mystery of the Missing Watch gets a high five from me.