Ranchers form a vigilante gang to run livestock thieves out of 1880s Montana.
The story begins with a gunshot, the first of hundreds that whiz through this action/adventure Western set on the plains of Montana and North Dakota in the twilight of the 19th century. In the first scene of the novel, a gang of livestock thieves kills a rancher at DHS Ranch, one of the largest cattle wrangling operations in the area. Fed up with the lack of law and order after being terrorized, the ranchers join together to take on the cattle thieves using any means necessary. The novel sweeps across the high plains, skipping from scenes of action to comedy. Little’s approach sets itself apart by including extensive regional histories, technical details and authentic depictions of ranch life. Despite the author’s admirable commitment to historical accuracy, these overly long sections cause the novel to grind to a halt, as if sections from a history essay and a how-to manual for ranchers have been inserted haphazardly into a Louis L’Amour novel. These parts reflect the author’s interests more than the demands of the story. More problematic, however, is the author’s shallow investigation of the moral implications of vigilantism. Though framed as righteous cowboys clearing the area of lawlessness, the moralistic raiders come off as bloodthirsty, not particularly appealing heroes willing to commit murder, arson, corpse mutilation and public intimidation to avenge crimes as minor as cattle theft and bootlegging. In effect, the novel trades emotional accuracy for technical accuracy, with brutal results.
An ambitious but deeply flawed look at life in the American West.