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Literature / Bret King Mysteries

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A 1960's New Old West series by Dan Scott following teenaged cowboy Bret King and his friends and family as they have various The Hardy Boys-esque adventures. There are nine books in the series: The Mystery of Ghost Canyon, The Secret of Hermit's Peak, The Range Rodeo Mystery, The Mystery of Rawhide Gap, The Mystery at Blizzard Mesa, The Secret of Fort Pioneer, The Mystery of the Comanche Caves, The Phantom of Wolf Creek, and The Mystery of Bandit Gulch.


  • Accidental Truth: In The Mystery of the Comanche Caves, Bret and his friends try to track down a fat henchman of the Big Bad. They claim that he's Benny's cousin Juan Gordo ("gordo" is Spanish for fat) to make their inquiries more inconspicuous. When they finally catch the guy, it turns out that his nickname really is Gordo.
  • Actually, I Am Him:
    • Bret and the others believe the prospector Ol' Whiskers is squatting on the land of easterner George Blain. This belief is false, because Whiskers is Blain.
    • In the climax of The Comanche Caves, the gang captures a seemingly unimportant Mook and ask him where his boss, the smuggling kingpin known as Totache. More goons suddenly appear to capture them, and the mook reveals that he's Totache.
  • Animal Nemesis: The Secret of Hermit's Peak features the mountain lion Old Stubfoot (whose name comes from losing two toes in a trap). Stubfoot is notorious for killing livestock (including Rusty King's new colt). Bret and the others are trying to hunt down the nimble and crafty mountain lion when they stumble into a mystery involving human villains.
  • Automaton Horses: Averted. In The Mystery of Ghost Canyon, a villain spends several days fleeing on one of the fastest and strongest horses around. The main characters stop to feed and rest their horses several times, but their villain does not show his horse the same courtesy. The poor animal is starved and exhausted to the point of collapse by the time Bret and the others capture his rider.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals:
    • After a suspenseful two-day pursuit of Wide-Mouth Williams in The Mystery of Ghost Canyon, the heroes are disgusted to find that he's ridden his horse almost to death.
    • Surly Burkhart hand Redneck Butler uses his spurs excessively while serving as a broncobuster. However, he has a few positive qualities, such as not being one of the criminals.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: The gang sometimes delay their investigations to help people in need. In The Comanche Caves, they do this to help some tourists whose car is stuck and a family whose house was damaged by a hurricane.
  • Clear My Name: In Rawhide Gap, Jack seeks to prove that his great-uncle was framed for robbing a stagecoach decades ago.
  • Disguised in Drag: The Dragon in The Secret of Fort Pioneer commits an act of sabotage while disguised as a female extra in a western movie.
  • Feuding Families: The Burkharts (who seem to be down to just one member) and the Conrads from The Phantom of Wolf Creek have been fighting over a patch of land for seventy-five years.
  • Grenade Hot Potato: The spies of The Mystery of Rawhide Gap throw a grenade at the heroes in the climax, only for Bret and Ace to throw the grenade back into the room it came from and then slam the door shut, with the explosion knocking all of the villains unconscious.
  • Invented Individual: The Back Story of The Secret of Fort Pioneer involves a cavalry fort where soldiers who were too lazy for guard duty put a scarecrow that they called Sergeant Silicoe on the walls of the fort to fill their shifts. The officers found out but thought it was hilarious and allowed it to continue. An official record even noted how Sergeant Silicoe was shot through the head with an arrow but wasn't hurt and could stand guard the next day.
  • Men of Sherwood: Sheriff Buxton, the other local cops, and volunteers who help them, like Mr. King and Dan Evans, don't get the Adults Are Useless treatment they would in many teen mystery stories. In the first and third books, they use tactics and gunplay (no one is ever killed, only wounded) to capture many of the villains themselves.
  • Modern Minstrelsy: While not entirely stereotypical, Bret’s friend Benny Ortega makes many Gratuitous Spanish comments, has a somewhat awkward catchphrase (“Well Gee My Wheez”) and is always composing joking songs about the group's adventures.
  • New Old West: The series is set in 1960 in an isolated area of New Mexico, with plenty of desert and mountain chases and shootouts, the local Navajo community playing a prominent role, and a lot of the rugged pioneer spirit still intact.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Sheriff Buxton's raid on the hideout in The Mystery of Ghost Canyon. Bret, Buxton's son Andy, and their friends hear lots of gunfire before capturing the gang's leaders while guarding an escape route (due to being too young to legally accompany the main posse). They are later told that Buxton and his men tied their flashlights to long sticks that they hung off to the side, causing the Mooks to shoot at them and give away their own position, with two men on each side being wounded before the robbers surrendered.
  • Parachute in a Tree: In The Mystery of Blizzard Mesa, Bret and Ace parachute out of a plane above the villains' hideout and Bret gets his chute caught in some tree branches twenty feet above the ground. He narrowly avoids being shot by the villains once they see him stuck there.
  • Prospector: Ol' Whiskers in the second book is a territorial, unkempt man who's spent decades mining gold at Hermit Peak.
  • Red Herring: Most villains are Obviously Evil but not every suspicious character is a villain.
    • Ol' Whiskers from The Secret of Hermit's Peak waves around his gun and threatens anyone who ventures near the peak, however good their motives are. However, his gun is unloaded, he's the rightful owner, and he isn't working for the bad guys. He just wants to be left alone.
    • In The Phantom of Wolf Creek, the Conrad family is being targeted by hostile thieves, one of whom is a Cold Sniper. Their neighbor Mr. Burkhart, who is an expert marksman and from a rival feuding family, and his thuggish ranch hand Redneck Butler are both innocent. Surly and secretive Conrad cowboy Wily Lank is also innocent, and is merely being blackmailed by the villains.
    • In The Secret of Fort Pioneer, a movie set is plagued by a threatening archer and costly pranks/sabotage. Suspicion falls on Doc Rile, one of the few archers in the area and a practical joker who says he moved to New Mexico for his health but looks healthy. His pranks are of the harmless variety, and the arrows that keep missing the main cast are being fired from a spear gun rather than a bow.
    • Halloran from the Mystery of Bandit Gulch is an angry and unhelpful guy until the climax, but he's just bitter and paranoid about the locals after being cheated in a real estate scam.
  • Shady Real Estate Agent: Dorset from The Mystery of Bandit Gulch is suspected of various confidence schemes and sells a Returning War Vet a barren piece of land to ranch on.
  • Ski-Resort Episode: The Mystery of Blizzard Mesa takes place at a ski resort, although Bret and his friends are there to investigate strange goings-on and not to ski.
  • South of the Border: The second half of The Comanche Caves has the gang looking for smugglers just south of the Mexican border. Unlike most examples of the trope, the majority of the people they meet are honest, pleasant, and helpful. However, the criminal kingpin's existence is well-known, he's viewed as untouchable, and he's capable of having people kidnapped off the street.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: In The Mystery of the Comanche Caves, a border patrol officer spends a few minutes giving Bret and his friends judo lessons for if they have to fight some smugglers. While the lessons come in handy, Bret and his friends don't achieve Instant Expert status and struggle to correctly use some of those judo moves in the climax.
  • Tagalong Kid: Bret's twelve-year-old brother Rusty is heavily involved in their adventures, although he's far from useless.
  • Train Job: In The Comanche Caves, the gang's new friend Ned expresses hope that he'll find the lost loot from a long-ago train robbery. An outlaw jumped onto the train and stole a gold shipment at gunpoint. He threw the gold off the train as it passed a canyon, only to fall to his death in the process. The gold has never been found, and some people think that the robber had an accomplice waiting to pick it up, or that treasure hunters found it years ago. The Unsolved Mystery comes into play, given that the gold is a Red Herring and the gang never learns what happened to it.
  • Ultimate Job Security: In The Secret of Fort Pioneer, west coast, Idle Rich, out-of-town blowhard Nick Holloway gets a job as a Mauve Shirt character in a western movie and proves to be an incompetent, lazy troublemaker who is Hated by All. The director repeatedly tries to fire him, but is reminded that Nick has already filmed a lot of footage and it will be expensive to re-shoot them if they recast his role. The day that he wraps up, he's kicked off the set. Of course, the assistant director making the arguments about why they need Nick is conspiring with Nick to find some buried treasure that legally belongs to the government, so he has a vested interest in keeping Nick around.