Rereading: THE MISSING BROTHER by Keith Robertson

Keith Robertson has been a favorite author since my own childhood. This is an early book, his third or fourth, and it’s subtitled “A Mystery Story for Older Boys,” perhaps because the hero Ted Fowler faces some life-threatening events in this taut, suspenseful tale.

Ted and his family live in Bradyville, Iowa, a small town where nothing exciting happens amid the corn fields and flat horizons. Even the nearest river is a long hike away. Ted likes to camp, and after a practical joke on his agriculture teacher goes a bit too far, Ted is tasked with finding and bringing back samples of red clay from a nearby farm, rare for the area. Ted soon finds out the owner of that farm, Eric Gillaby, does not allow trespassers. Gillaby makes his point with a shotgun on the edge of the small hill and gravel pit where the clay is, but a sudden landslide puts both Ted and Gillaby in a heap at the bottom, and Gillaby is injured. Ted helps him get back to his house, and before long, the boy becomes friends with the farmer. He learns from his neighbor, Judge McDaniel, the reason for Eric’s solitary ways. He had a brother, Frank, and the two of them often quarreled. One day Frank disappeared, and everyone in town thinks Eric killed him, except his friend and lawyer Judge Daniel. With this mystery to solve, Tom is soon drawn into more serious confrontations with criminals and con-men that put him on the run, even though he uncovers clues to the mystery of the missing brother.

This is a great read, and perhaps closer to Robertson’s adult mysteries than many of his other books for young readers. I found myself missing the humorous and appealing narration of the lead character in other Robertson books, and also think Tom could have used help from a friend instead of going it alone so much. Those are story elements that the author developed later. Still, highly recommended.

The Missing Brother by Keith Robertson

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