Young Adult

Palo Duro

By

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Worth reading 😎

A young teen adventure/mystery, this book will keep you guessing until the end.

Synopsis

Palo Duro Canyon — nicknamed "the Grand Canyon of Texas" — is the second-largest canyon in the United States and the largest state park in the Texas panhandle. Once home to many Native American tribes, though long gone, traces of their civilization can still be found in the canyon to this day.

Rachel Hernandez, an anthropology student at West Texas A&M University has discovered something that hasn't been seen in nearly two hundred years: in the depths of Palo Duro, a fabled cave full of Native American carvings and paintings. Shortly after her discovery, she vanishes without a trace, the only evidence left behind is her bootprints in the trail that leads to the caves. Rachel's twin brother Ricky and her best friend Jordan seek answers in her disappearance, and what they find may be the biggest cover-up in all of history.

Returning to young adult adventure and mystery, #1 Amazon bestselling author Andrew J Brandt brings an intriguing story of things lost...and things found.

I went into this book with high expectations. After growing up on mystery/thriller novels, I am always excited to see how authors manipulate the genre to their whims. Marketed as a young adult thriller, I was ready to sink my teeth into this novel.


Let’s talk about the genre for a minute. I would not consider this book a thriller. It is a really fun adventure, and it has some mystery, but I don’t think it has enough elements in the genre to be a thriller. And while I would agree that technically this book falls under young adult, I would recommend this book for younger teens specifically.


As for the plot, there were some timings that I wish were a little different, but otherwise a solid story.  There was some relationship drama that was a little eyeroll-y, but when you break down the plot without that element, the novel has a good premise. I do wish that the book was longer so that we could build the investigative part of this book up. Side note: I think if that was built up, this book probably could have been considered a thriller.


I read this book in a few hours, which is impressive for me. It is definitely a shorter read, but it also has so many elements that will keep you intrigued until the very end. I think that this book is a very good stepping stone for a young teen wanting to get into mystery/thriller novels, and while it did not fulfill my initial expectations, it did also surprise me positively. After a lot of deliberation, I have finally decided to give this book 3 out of 5 stars, with an understanding that I’m giving this rating as an adult and that middle school me is definitely thinking that rating is harsh.

Reviewed by

During the day, I listen to books while working, and when I come home, I pick up a book and read. I’ve loved books since before I can remember, and I try and make reviews that encourage people to pick up and read for themselves. I try my best to be honest, and I hope that people appreciate that!

Synopsis

Palo Duro Canyon — nicknamed "the Grand Canyon of Texas" — is the second-largest canyon in the United States and the largest state park in the Texas panhandle. Once home to many Native American tribes, though long gone, traces of their civilization can still be found in the canyon to this day.

Rachel Hernandez, an anthropology student at West Texas A&M University has discovered something that hasn't been seen in nearly two hundred years: in the depths of Palo Duro, a fabled cave full of Native American carvings and paintings. Shortly after her discovery, she vanishes without a trace, the only evidence left behind is her bootprints in the trail that leads to the caves. Rachel's twin brother Ricky and her best friend Jordan seek answers in her disappearance, and what they find may be the biggest cover-up in all of history.

Returning to young adult adventure and mystery, #1 Amazon bestselling author Andrew J Brandt brings an intriguing story of things lost...and things found.

Prologue

RACHEL HERNANDEZ KNEW she was in trouble. As the sun sank just below the horizon line, the night air cooling to the point that she had to zip up her orange down jacket to keep warm, she needed to head back to her vehicle as soon as possible. The last thing she wanted was to be out here on the trails after it got dark. In fact, if her brother found out she was out here alone—much less alone at this hour—he would tell her how stupid she was, probably loud enough for the entire campus to hear.

Rachel and Ricardo (Ricky, he preferred, though their mother always called him by his full name Ricardo Joseph Hernandez when he was in trouble) were twins, sophomores at West Texas A&M University, and like a lot of twins, they couldn’t be more different from one another. One was pragmatic and calculated, while the other was free-spirited with a head in the clouds and a penchant for imagination and exploration. With one of them alone in the canyon at dusk, searching for Native American artifacts, you can probably guess which was which.

Rachel, an anthropological student at the university, was both fascinated by and curious about the ancient Native American civilizations that once inhabited the valley of Palo Duro Canyon, long before Francisco Coronado and the conquistadors traipsed all through the Texas panhandle in the 1500’s. In fact, it was her love of all things Native American that drove her to attend West Texas A&M in the first place. With Palo Duro Canyon just twenty miles from the campus, she spent most of her free time down here, usually with her roommate Jordan and a few other students in the anthropology program, searching for signs of ancient encampments and a civilization that was wiped out when the Europeans infiltrated the land.

The canyon carved a hole into the otherwise flat Texas panhandle nearly twenty miles wide at some points and almost a thousand feet deep. The elements had formed, over thousands of years, various formations that struck Rachel in wonder. From the sandstone hoodoos to the sheer cliffs cut by millions of years of weather and change, the whole thing fascinated her. And while she loved to spend time down here in “the Grand Canyon of Texas,” her brother spent most of his time in the computer lab.

It never ceased to amaze Rachel—two kids from the same parents, same genes, who couldn’t be more identical, were complete opposites. In fact, she had found him in the I.T. lab before she drove to the can- yon earlier that morning. He was working on some piece of equipment, some experiment that held his entire attention while she had told him, voice full of wonder and eyes wide with imagination, what she was going to look for.

“Somewhere in the caves there are ancient dwellings,” she had said. “From when the Kiowa lived in the canyon, before Coronado arrived. They were driven out by other tribes later, but allegedly, there’s still some dwellings where the paintings and carvings haven’t been altered. I was down there last week and I found a new entrance to the cave system. I think that’s where they are.”

Ricky had kind of hhhhmph’ed as he soldered together the components of the strange device.

“Are you even listening?” she asked him, perturbed.

“Mmmhmm,” he said, preoccupied, his eyes never coming up from the device. Strands of his long hair coming loose from behind his ear fell into his line of sight and he pushed it back. “Cave dwellings.”

“Right! Does that not excite you? Can you imagine what kind of history is there, just waiting to be discovered? Dr. Errington said she’s been looking for them for twenty years,” she said, her voice quickening as she paced the laboratory floor. “And, look,” Rachel pro- duced a map, photocopied from a handwritten original that looked like it was several centuries old. “According to this, those caves are close to an ancient landslide, hidden by some boulders. Hard to access, easy to defend from attackers. I overlaid a present-day map over this, and it’s on some private land, near the boulder garden trail.”

“That’s great, but do you know what excites me, Rach?” he said as he clapped his hands together and stood back from his device. “This.” He pushed a button on the thing and it hummed to life. Suddenly, the sounds of the band Snow Patrol came from multiple speakers mounted on the workbench in the room.

“Music?” she asked, confused.

“Not just music, Rach. Check it out. This Linux server can stream the same source to multiple speakers. Whole-dorm audio,” Ricky said. On a control panel on the front of the computer’s casing, he flipped a dial and the song changed to another.

“You already have Bluetooth speakers,” Rachel said, rolling her eyes. This electronic tinkering, spending countless hours surrounded by countless pieces of technology, was not anything new. Rachel would go absolutely stir-crazy being indoors as much as Ricky was as he worked on these various projects. There was too much beauty and wonder and majesty outside for her to be cooped up all day in some electronic laboratory.

“This isn’t just regular Bluetooth. Pull out your phone,” Ricky said, and she obliged. “Now, open up your music. You should see an icon at the bottom of the screen for Bluetooth play. Click it.”

Rachel selected a song and then selected this new icon at the bottom of her screen. “It’s not doing anything,” she said. “Your machine doesn’t work.” The last two words were succinct and almost sarcastic.

“That’s what you don’t get,” Ricky said. “It’s a multi-device jukebox. We can put this in the dorm and anyone can attach their own speakers to the network and then play whatever they want, and it all goes into a queue. It’s open-source radio! Everyone gets to create a never-ending playlist and you can attach your phone and your own speaker to the mesh.”

“Oh wow,” Rachel said. “That is kind of...cool.”

“See? I can be cool sometimes,” he said with a smile.

Rachel laughed. “No, I said this,” she pointed at the device, “is cool. You still have a long way to go.”

“So is your roommate—what’s her name?” “Jordan,” Rachel cut him off. He didn’t have to pretend to be ignorant; he knew exactly what her name was. Rachel had caught her brother staring at her roommate more than once, his eyes glassed over with the look of dreamy infatuation.

“Right. Jordan. Is she going with you?” On the workbench, Ricky pulled a monitor that hung on a wall-mounted arm in front of him and started typing. Lines of code, none of it intelligible to Rachel, blurred on the screen.

“Um, yeah,” she lied.

“Good. You know mom doesn’t like it when you go down there by yourself,” Ricky said.

“Well, I’m not. And even if I was, Mom doesn’t have to know. Besides, I won’t be gone long.” She looked at her wristwatch, a Timex Expedition she’d received as a birthday gift from their mother a few years ago. The back had an inscription, etched into the stainless steel. Not all who wander are lost, it read. The luminescent hands on the dial, glowing in the low light of the tech lab, read a quarter past three. “I’m going to take a few pictures once I get to the caves and come right back.”

“Alright,” he said warily. “Be careful. There’s Sasquatches down there.”

“Oh my god, Ricky,” she said. “There’s no such thing as a damn Sasquatch.”

And with that she had left the lab, went to her car, and drove down to the canyon. Now, nearly five hours later, she found herself off the main trails, the sun quickly going down. She knew Ricky would throw a fit. He’d probably even tell their mother that she was down there well past sunset, if he hadn’t already. Despite being nineteen years old, she still felt like a little girl in her mother’s eyes.

Now she whacked her way through the brush, trying to find the trail that would take her back to the trailhead parking lot. She had just been on it, the little dirt path that cut through the mesquite brush. How had she wandered off of it? Despite her hurry, she felt an im- mense satisfaction with the day trip. She’d found the caves. Hundreds of paintings, depictions of ancient Native life, adorned the walls. She thought they’d be worn over time, of course, but, no. They were still there in all their black and gold glory and as if they’d been etched that very day. She had taken several pictures and written down the coordinates of the cave in her black Moleskine notebook. Doctor Errington, the head of the anthropology department, would be so excited when she’d shown her what she’d found. Who even knew when the last time it was that a human actually laid eyes on these cave paintings?

Turning around a large bush, something caught her attention. As the bushes rustled ahead of her, she turned on her light and saw the hulking figure in the brush. It was a bison, no more than forty yards ahead of her. She couldn’t believe it. Taking out her phone, she snapped a couple of pictures of the creature as it grazed on some grass, seemingly paying the girl no mind. Rachel couldn’t wait to show Dr. Errington and Jordan all the pictures from this day trip.

Off in the distance, past the grazing bison, smoke softly billowed above the mesquite brush from an en- campment a few hundred yards ahead of her. She realized that it was now almost completely dark. The sun had set faster than she’d anticipated and the group of tents was lit by fires, a soft orange glow casting silhouettes in the dark. From here, she could make out four tents poking above the canyon floor, cutting into the quickly-darkening sky.

Rachel knew there were backpacking and primitive campsites in the canyon, but they were generally further down the river that ran through the canyon, on the south side of the state park. This didn’t look like a primitive campsite, however. In fact, as she observed the encampment through the brush, she saw several more tents a little further back, their tops peeking through in the distance.

She took out her phone and began taking photographs, zooming in on the encampment. It was unlike anything she’d ever seen, but also so familiar. Rachel realized what she was seeing—they weren’t tents, but teepees. She’d never seen historically-authentic teepees in person before out in the wilderness. She wondered if there was a historical reenactment event going on.

Before she had time to react, a sound, the crunching of branches on dirt, from behind startled her. In her fascination, Rachel never saw the person come up behind her. She felt a pair of strong hands wrap around her mouth and she tried to scream, tried to kick, but multiple arms were around her now as she was dragged off the trail and into the night.

About the author

Andrew J Brandt is the author of multiple bestsellers, including the #1 young adult thriller The Treehouse. A graduate of West Texas A&M University, Andrew resides in Texas with his wife and children. view profile

Published on May 05, 2020

Published by Caprock Publishing Group

50000 words

Genre: Young Adult

Reviewed by

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