No surprises, but provides some excellent evidence for anyone who wants to argue that Spenser’s creator has been writing...



Freelance gunslingers Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch (Resolution, 2008, etc.) ride into yet another town and treat it to another baptism of fire.

Though he hasn’t seen Allie French for a year, Virgil has never given up hope of finding her again. Riding south with sidekick and amanuensis Everett, he catches up with her in Placido, Texas. Virgil and Everett spirit her off in jig time, but the magic doesn’t return so easily. Everett can spot the problem with Virgil right off: “With Allie he was different. I didn’t like different.” Clearly it’ll take something special to rekindle the flame—something like the job Virgil and Everett are offered as deputy sheriffs in nearby Brimstone, “an actual town” that’s more than just a collection of gamblers, drunks and whores. Val Verde County sheriff Dave Morrissey is concerned by the growing tension between Pike, a gang leader who’s opened a perfectly law-abiding saloon, and Brother Percival, a firebrand revivalist determined to close down every watering hole in Brimstone. With each saloon Brother Percival shutters, his mission sets him more clearly on a collision course with Pike. The episodic plot prescribes some preliminary skirmishes: the kidnapping of a slain rancher’s wife and daughter by a Comanche brave with a grudge against Pike; their rescue by Virgil and Everett and a half-breed tracker they’ve hooked up with; and their traumatic difficulties readjusting to life in Brimstone. But there’s never any doubt that all this is heading to a climactic showdown between Pike and Brother Percival, followed by a post-climactic showdown between Virgil and his friends and the sole survivor, according to the iron rule that governed Virgil’s first two adventures: “Let the vermin fight to the death and then pick off the winner.”

No surprises, but provides some excellent evidence for anyone who wants to argue that Spenser’s creator has been writing nothing but westerns for 35 years.

Pub Date: May 5, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-399-15571-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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