A Western in the classic mode, full of gunfights, revenge, questions of honor and the bonds men form in a precarious world.
Brothers Red and Doc Whitfield return to Montana—older brother Red from the West, where he has made his fortune cooking for gold-seekers, and Doc from the East, where he’s just finished medical training—to rescue their mother, Yellow Bird, from Ross Butcher, who has taken over their ranch and is treating her as a prisoner. The brothers are willing to cede the ranch to Butcher in exchange for their mother, but their plan becomes more complicated when they find out Yellow Bird has disappeared. After Doc delivers a baby and brings about a reconciliation between an estranged father and son-in-law—and then survives a raid by some of Butcher’s men—he and Red, along with a cowboy named Sinful and Big John Warner, just released from prison after Butcher framed him for robbery, set off with two goals: Kill Butcher and find Yellow Bird. The friendships and loyalties that develop among the ad hoc posse, as well as the friends and enemies they meet along the way, add emotional depth. Also notable is the book’s celebration of the era’s weaponry: Doc’s ability to fire his Colt before anyone realizes he’s drawn his weapon, the value of a Henry rifle for defense, Sinful’s ability to hit any target with his “Arkansas toothpick.” Despite the high body count, the author allows for some ambiguity by resolving certain conflicts without bullets. This is very much a book about men, and the reader never gets to see the female characters, both Anglo and Blackfoot—Yellow Bird’s nation—as fully realized as the male characters. This, along with the violence, is a standard component of the traditional Western, but by moving beyond that to explore the men’s emotions and relationships, the author adapts the genre to the modern era.
A story of honor and revenge that unites modern sentiments and genre traditions.