A new middle-grade adventure series kicks off.
The story begins with a flashback to 1934, when a greedy white geologist, Gordon Kattrick, hired by an oil company, hires a few locals to assist him on a private expedition to scout precious stones along the San Juan River in Utah. They discover a secret cavern full of petroglyphs, ancient pottery, and rare stones, but falling rocks trap the men, never to be seen again. The present-day storyline commences when a wilderness rafting company sponsors a trip for local high school students to the same area of the mysterious disappearance. While on the rafting trip, white, hypertalented 14-year-old Mogi Franklin and his Navajo friend Frank discover some of these rare stones in the bottom of a small pool of rainwater. A mysterious stranger disturbs the camp at night, only discovered as a figure in a blurry photo accidentally taken by Mogi. As Mogi and friends try to solve the mystery of the “ghost” in the photo, an almost deadly twist leaves them to believe it may be connected to the missing men from the 1934 expedition. Willerton’s story starts slow, drenched in expository details that risk losing readers. The Native American characters in the story, both past and present, stereotypically serve as the backdrop cultural advisers to the lead white characters, robbing this Navajo landscape mystery of much of its potential depth.
A miss. (Adventure. 10-14)