Death of a neigh-sayer.
Two hoofs belonging to two of the Pettyjohn Ranch thoroughbreds are discovered at the dump by worker Hugh Davoren, who grew up fixing things around the place when it belonged to old Reuben and his son, and sassy Celia Thayer flirted with all the men around, including adolescent Hugh. Currently, the ranch, straddling the border between Montana and Canada, belongs to Wesley and Laurie Balcomb, dilettante ranchers and horse-raisers. Laurie, a dead ringer for the bygone Celia, suddenly seems interested in Hugh, but he’s got enough trouble on his hands without romancing the owner’s wife. Fighting with Reuben’s drunken son Kirk, he kills him in self-defense and buries the body with the help of his Blackfoot pal Madbird. Then he’s ordered off the ranch when Wesley accuses him, rightly, of taking lumber from the place. Still, the boards had been discarded, the firing seems capricious—at least to Hugh—and in trying to salvage his reputation and life, he keeps bumping into Celia’s double and discovering that Wesley’s interest in the spread and the thoroughbreds is a cover-up for a get-rich scheme centering on the ranch’s proximity to Canada.
A sprawling western saga, more Edna Ferber than Agatha Christie, from the author of the Monks medical mysteries (To the Bone, 2003, etc.). Readers with a taste for escalating violence, Native American ritual and intergenerational lust may stick around to the end.