Freelance gunslingers Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch (Resolution, 2008, etc.) ride into yet another town and treat it to another baptism of fire.
Though he hasn’t seen Allie French for a year, Virgil has never given up hope of finding her again. Riding south with sidekick and amanuensis Everett, he catches up with her in Placido, Texas. Virgil and Everett spirit her off in jig time, but the magic doesn’t return so easily. Everett can spot the problem with Virgil right off: “With Allie he was different. I didn’t like different.” Clearly it’ll take something special to rekindle the flame—something like the job Virgil and Everett are offered as deputy sheriffs in nearby Brimstone, “an actual town” that’s more than just a collection of gamblers, drunks and whores. Val Verde County sheriff Dave Morrissey is concerned by the growing tension between Pike, a gang leader who’s opened a perfectly law-abiding saloon, and Brother Percival, a firebrand revivalist determined to close down every watering hole in Brimstone. With each saloon Brother Percival shutters, his mission sets him more clearly on a collision course with Pike. The episodic plot prescribes some preliminary skirmishes: the kidnapping of a slain rancher’s wife and daughter by a Comanche brave with a grudge against Pike; their rescue by Virgil and Everett and a half-breed tracker they’ve hooked up with; and their traumatic difficulties readjusting to life in Brimstone. But there’s never any doubt that all this is heading to a climactic showdown between Pike and Brother Percival, followed by a post-climactic showdown between Virgil and his friends and the sole survivor, according to the iron rule that governed Virgil’s first two adventures: “Let the vermin fight to the death and then pick off the winner.”
No surprises, but provides some excellent evidence for anyone who wants to argue that Spenser’s creator has been writing nothing but westerns for 35 years.