A suspiciously low cattle count is the least of the problems for Lawrence Elwood and his fellow cowpunchers—or, as they may well be, rustlers—at the Crown Butte Ranch.
Elwood likes to keep things simple: the sun warm overhead, the breeze cool on his face, the cry of a whippoorwill for entertainment. But complications keep arising. Someone just might be stealing cattle from Crown Butte owner Rand Sullivan’s herd—someone like Crown Butte hands George Crandall and Paul Beckwith. Jim Farley, the loudmouthed stranger who insists on buying drinks for his companions at the Northern Star Saloon, just might be bank robber Jude Ostrander. Mac Driggs and Gus Haden, a pair of cowpunchers fired from the Top Rail, have signed on with Tad Jennings, the new owner of the Drumm Ranch, whose sidekick, Josh Armitage, seems even less trustworthy than his boss. Independent ranch hand Angell Gunn seems awfully quick on the trigger if he thinks you’re following him or if you get ahead of him on the trail. And Elwood could always wonder, if he were so inclined, why D.W. Stanley hanged himself soon after walking into town—or whether he had help. The big question, however, is whether Josephine Newton, who’s fled her cheating husband in Omaha to stay for a spell with Sullivan’s wife, Ellen, her old friend, will ride off into the sunset with Elwood or whether he’ll have to solace himself with Sylvie Lamarre, the flirtatious general store clerk from Montana.
Nesbitt (Across the Cheyenne River, 2014, etc.) spins a leisurely sagebrush romance with the mystery crowded into the closing chapters, after the serious gunplay has already begun.