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3.2 6
by Jessie Haas

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When Phin Chase witnesses a violent murder, he knows he must leave town. But no matter how fast he runs and where he hides, there is always someone close behind. Who is it? And what does he want? Set in the aftermath of the Civil War, this adrenaline–laced novel features a horse with the ability to track like a bloodhound, a resilient hero, a mystery that

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When Phin Chase witnesses a violent murder, he knows he must leave town. But no matter how fast he runs and where he hides, there is always someone close behind. Who is it? And what does he want? Set in the aftermath of the Civil War, this adrenaline–laced novel features a horse with the ability to track like a bloodhound, a resilient hero, a mystery that will keep readers hooked, and a relentless chase across a wide swath of the American Midwest.

Ages: 10 –14

Editorial Reviews

KLIATT - Claire Rosser
You may remember Haas's name from Unbroken and other horse stories. She really outdoes herself with this one, with a remarkable horse, a boy named Phin Chase, accused of murder, and a detective from Pinkerton's, who relentlessly chases the young fugitive. From the first few pages, the chase is on, and it's scary and challenging. Phin is an orphan in a coalmining town in Pennsylvania, just after the Civil War. The struggles of the coal miners are linked to violence, from the owners and from some of the organizers. It's unclear who is on which side. Phin walks in on a murder, so he is a witness; he escapes but becomes the accused and must literally run for his life. A few of the townspeople help him and from the first, Haas has the reader gasping with Phin. The events of the novel occur within a few days, and the tension never lets up. Phin manages to hide in a boxcar when the train leaves town, but his pursuers are right there too. When a strange man on a horse seems to know when Phin leaves the train and where he goes, Phin figures out that somehow the horse is able to track him, just like a dog would be able to track. Phin uses his wits even when he is exhausted, hungry and cold—he has to in order to survive. He hides out in a farmhouse when he is desperate—can he trust the old woman and the girl who discover him? Can they trust him? This is fine historical fiction, with suspense on every page and a courageous young man who is quite a hero. The cover art shows a black horse running fast through the woods, which introduces the excitement.
Children's Literature - Amie Rose Rotruck
After witnessing a murder in a small coal-mining town in 1870s Pennsylvania, Phin Chase flees. He runs from both the murderer looking to silence him as well as people who think he killed the man. Since his mother died, there has been little for him in town anyway. On the run in the countryside, he encounters a strange horse, one that seems to be tracking him like a hound. When Phin finds the horse's rider injured, he helps him to a friendly house where the man is nursed by an old woman and her granddaughter. There he confirms that the rider is a bounty hunter seeking Phin and a paper that Phin took from the murderer. Eventually, Phin reaches a point where he can run no farther. While the plot drags a bit at times, for the most part Haas has created an engaging story. Her attention to historical detail helps make Phin's world more vivid as he is chased throughout the story.
Karolinde Young
Phin Chase witnesses the murder of his friend Engelbreit by Ned Plume, a member of a notorious group, the Sleepers. Phin narrowly escapes with his life, and the knowledge that Plume intends to blame Engelbreit's murder on Phin. Phin finds himself tracked by a secretive man with a horse for a bloodhound. Phin doesn't know if the man is part of the Sleepers, a Pinkerton agent, or a friend. The only thing Phin can trust is a collection of Emerson's poems that he has memorized and that may just save his life. Chase is set against the backdrop of the labor disputes between mine owners and the workers after the Civil War. Haas introduces the reader to the ethnic conflict that existed at the time, especially in the case of the Irish. Phin's story is one not only of survival, but also of finding his place within the world. While readers will definitely sympathize with Phin, the best part of the book is definitely the horse. Reviewer: Karolinde Young
Kirkus Reviews
When aptly named Phin Chase witnesses a murder in brutal Pennsylvania coal country in 1875, he knows at once he'll be blamed. Aren't the murderers Sleepers, Irish vigilantes at war with the coal bosses? They run Phin's world, and their leader, Ned Plume, takes charge of the chase to catch him. Plume's lover inadvertently makes it worse for Phin by handing him Plume's wallet, which contains "six men's lives"-incriminating names on a slip of paper. Though the clever actions of his old friends help spirit him out of town, Phin isn't safe-a mysterious stranger named Fraser joins the hunt, with a black stallion that seems to be able to hunt by smell. The story's beginning is hard to follow, but as Chase gains momentum, the action and nuanced writing carry the reader pell-mell to a wholly believable end. Haas's best yet for older readers. (Historical fiction. 12-14)

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.89(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chase EPB

Chapter One


Phin surfaced from the book with a start and sat listening; for what, he wasn't sure.

It was hours later, the lamp pale and unneeded, the sky blue, with a glowing red-orange streak at the horizon. Engelbreit was sleeping late this morning. Dawn usually found him up and breakfasting, then off to the mine to meet the incoming shift. In these troubled times it was best to be on hand early, to smell out whatever mischief had brewed overnight.

But Engelbreit was only just stirring in his blankets. That must be the sound that had startled Phin. Then why was he still listening? Why was he thinking of his mother?

He glanced down at the great poem he'd been so deep in moments ago. They'd never shared Leaves of Grass. It was two weeks after her death that he'd discovered Engelbreit and his books.

There were twenty-two of them on the shelf next to the table. Four had to do with coal and engineering, but there were novels, history, and poetry, too. Engelbreit wouldn't loan them. He'd caught Phin reading a novel left on the bench outside his door. "Come anytime," he'd said. "If I'm asleep, don't wake me. Just light the lamp and read."

For ten months now Phin had come almost every night. It felt more like home than the empty room behind Murray's Tavern. He missed her less here, and more. Isn't this beautiful? he kept wanting to ask her; or What do you think? And he'd look up from the page and remember.

But this wasn't one of those times. He didn't feel sorrowful, just-uneasy.

He leaned to blow out the lamp as Engelbreit rose, shoved his feet into his boots, and openedthe front door wide. The sun was just coming up.

Engelbreit went out, dipped water from the barrel, and washed his face and hands. He came back in, leaving the door open. It was early autumn. The breeze brought a spicy smell from beyond the coalfields.

"Do you ever sleep, boy?" He rubbed his palms over his face; broad, bearded, maned like a lion. His calm blue eyes looked curiously at Phin, who shrugged. Sleep was hard to come by at a saloon. Sometimes he slept in the early morning, when things got quiet, or he'd slip away to the stable and bed down in the hay. Engelbreit didn't know that, and he didn't know much about Engelbreit. What they spoke of when they got the chance was books, and they didn't get the chance often.

Engelbreit drove his men like a demon, so the talk ran at Murray's. Phin had seen him come home, this demon, as soaked with sweat as any black-faced miner; throw himself on the bed and lie there wide-eyed, too exhausted to sleep. He'd seen him at his figures, shaking his head. The numbers didn't come out right. Working like a demon wasn't enough, for him or anyone else these days.

Engelbreit bent to kindle a fire in the stove. The sun struck a golden spear through the doorway. "Have some breakfast, since you're here?"

Just then a shadow crossed the sunbeam on the floor, then two more shadows. Shoulders. Hats. Like dark dolls the shapes lengthened over the clean-swept boards. Phin looked around.

Ned Plume came first, walking straight to the door with a revolver in his hand. He carried it down by his side, casual as a man with a dinner pail. He was tall and straight and his shoulders swung easily. The two behind were nervous and had been drinking.

There was time for one word. "Sleepers," Phin said, and Engelbreit turned from his breakfast.

Turned slowly. It was already too late. His eyes were fearless, and Plume raised the gun and fired. Red blossomed on Engelbreit's shirt and he fell back. When his head struck the iron stove, the look in his eyes didn't change. He was already gone.

Phin had seen dead men. In coal country in 1875, you did.

But Engelbreit. The sun through the open doorway, bright rose of red on his shirt. Engelbreit's calm eyes-The next shot would slam into Phin. He refused to turn and see it. Engelbreit's face would be his last sight on earth-

Footsteps, a rustle of clothing. Hands grabbed his upper arms, hard and hot as iron from the forge. He was jerked around to face Ned Plume.

The morning light gilded Plume's face. He looked handsome and noble, like a dime-novel hero, as he raised his gun again.

Phin swooped out of his body to a high corner of the ceiling. He saw the gun leveled at him, a shabby boy with a mended tear in the top of his cap. The boy looked calm, as detached as Engelbreit. Plume squared his jaw, squared it again, and his knuckle whitened on the trigger.

Abruptly he dropped his gun hand to his side. "This one I can't do."

Phin fell back into his body, a shrinking prison of fear. "He knows something," said the man holding him. " 'Sleepers,' he said."

But everyone knew the Sleepers. You pretended not to, but you did. And working at Murray's-an Irish tavern, in an Irish mine town-you'd have to be blind and deaf not to. The Sleepers-Molly Maguires, Ancient Order of Hibernians, to give them their other names-were the Irish defense force. Or they were a band of thugs; opinion was divided, even among the Irish.

Phin knew about the secret passwords and handshakes; about the coffin notices, threats with black coffins drawn on them to scare off oppressive bosses. He knew about the body masters who headed each local group. He knew about the gunmen. But everyone was aware of those things. He'd known everything, and nothing; certainly nothing worth dying for, until now.

"You do it," Plume said. The hands holding Phin jerked. Plume laughed. "Not so easy, is it? But here's a plan-"

"Who is the kid?" a voice outside asked.

Chase EPB. Copyright (c) by Jessie Haas . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Meet the Author

Jessie Haas is the author of numerous acclaimed books for young people, including Unbroken, which was a Publishers Weekly Best Book, a School Library Journal Best Book, a Parent's Choice Gold Award winner, a Notable Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies, and CCBC Choice. Her most recent novel, Shaper, won a Golden Kite Honor Award.

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