This Western-based tale of murder, war, love and the pursuit of justice cuts a wide swath from Japan to Germany before returning home to Wyoming and leaving readers breathless.
In 1941, Sheriff Tom Call investigates the vicious killing of a 15-year-old runaway girl whose body is found in a shack on Eli Paint’s ranch. Call is dedicated and conscientious, but he finds time to enjoy flying his single-engine Aeronca and taking Paint’s wife for rides that lead to their love affair. The murder case occupies and frustrates him right up until the attack on Pearl Harbor, when he decides to put his passion for flying to use as a B-17 pilot in Europe. Todd’s writing is exceptional and vivid, especially in depicting the combat scenes on the USS Tennessee in the Pacific. The large cast of characters fights the war on two oceans. Amid the dangers of combat, Call’s mind often returns to the murder. Meanwhile, Pardo Bury, the son of a powerful businessman and a seriously unbalanced lowlife, does hard time in a Texas prison for slicing a prostitute. He is released around the time the war ends and is bent on revenge, embarking on a crime spree best not read about over lunch. Pardo doesn’t especially need revenge as a motivation, though. In the tradition of criminals like Charles Starkweather, he takes a special pleasure in killing for its own sake. When the story follows Pardo after the war, the sex and violence are as graphic as they can be, rather like being crushed to a puddle by a pallet of Penthouse magazines. The final showdown between good and evil hits the reader like a knife to the gut.
A brilliant, compelling, at times repulsive and highly readable novel.