An attractively level-headed feminist novel about the first woman judge in the West, plenty lively without resort to overblown melodrama. Temperance Smith is a lawyer, the daughter of an Eastern judge whom she saw shot down by an enraged innocent man who had been falsely convicted of murder. So, when Temperance is appointed to assist Isaac (""The Hanging Judge"") Parker at Fort Smith in the Arkansas-Tennessee territory, she'll do her best to avoid handing out capital punishment. Parker--a surprisingly sympathetic character--sends her out into Indian territory as a circuit rider, and, accompanied by bitter, half-Choctaw lawyer-manquÃ‰ Hyde Calloway, Temperance judges difficult cases: a black man suffering from brain syphilis who has raped a twelve-year-old black girl; a train engineer who has run down an Indian (he must be judged in an Indian camp by standards that satisfy the Indians); and, most ironically, the liberated-woman leader of a Robin-Hoodish band of train-robbing murderers. Temperance, a follower of Susan B. Anthony and hater of the death penalty, presides over the trial and becomes the first woman judge who must sentence another woman to die by hanging. The tense love story with Hyde is handled delicately, the requisite violence is tastefully delivered, and Temperance is a believable, intelligent heroine. All in all, a sturdy and professional first novel.