In this second book of the Orphan Train Quartet, the story of the six Kelly children continues with 11-year-old Mike's experiences on a Missouri farm. From the beginning, Mike believes his new family has left a secret in their native Germany, and although the tricks plotted by the Friedrichs' loutish son earn Mike severe beatings, Mike suspects that Mr. Friedrich is really whipping someone from the past--Ulrich, his eldest son. Mrs. Friedrich is glad to fill Mike with delicious food, but cowers when her husband demands her silence. When the hired man disappears without a word, Mike accuses Mr. Friedrich of murder and then discovers the secret: Ulrich died in a German prison, accused of stealing to feed the family. Mike helps to clear Mr. Friedrich, but then decides to live with an army captain and his wife at Fort Leavenworth. Unfortunately, Mike's stow suffers from one-dimensional characters and unimaginative plotting. The Friedrich family embodies a plethora of German stereotypes; their son's tricks would fool no one. Newly independent readers may need the story's cliffhangers, but they also deserve unhackneyed plot twists, interesting characters, and a richer sense of time and place.