A ranch hand looking for work in Wyoming finds employment, true love and murder.
Russell Archer and Boot Beckett both arrive at the Bar M Ranch on the same day, and they’re both decent guys, but it doesn’t take long for Archer to distinguish himself. He’s a hard worker and a quick study; apart from a dalliance with a good-time girl, he doesn’t fritter away his leisure hours; he’s a good man in a fight, as a bully who threatens the ranch finds to his sorrow; and he’s devoted to the Bar M and its owner, Lidge Mercer. Even so, Archer is surprised when he’s about to leave at the end of the season and Mercer asks him to stay over the winter and offers him a junior partnership and a 30 percent financial stake in the growing enterprise. By this time, Archer has started keeping company with Kate Blackwell, who helps out at the local store, so he has good reason to stay. But the best-laid plans go awry. Soon after Mercer tells Archer that Phillip Peavey, the ratlike fellow who’s been hanging around the place dropping hints of trouble, is actually a cousin who’s entangled them both in murder for money, Mercer himself is shot dead. Even worse, Archer learns that Mercer never signed or filed the partnership papers for the Bar M or the will that promised to make Archer his heir. With no legal stake in the ranch, he determines to stay on anyway—putting himself right in the cross hairs of whoever killed his boss.
Despite the rising body count, Nesbitt (Dark Prairie, 2013, etc.) keeps it all slow and easy as a gentled horse, making this tale the perfect escape even from other mystery fiction.