Knott (Robert B. Parker's The Bridge, 2014, etc.) continues the inimitable Parker’s Western series with marshals Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch caught up in the aftermath of a Denver policeman’s wife’s murder.
Sgt. Roger Messenger has traced his wife’s alleged killer, Boston Bill Black, down to Appaloosa territory, where Cole and Hitch keep the law. Messenger confronts Boston Bill, who’s busy setting up a new gambling hall, and is killed by one of Bill's henchmen. Bill and two bodyguards flee. Cole and Hitch pursue, but in the chase, popular deputy sheriff Skinny Jack is killed. The marshals bring in the bodyguard who killed Messenger, with the other shot dead. But it’s bounty hunter Valentine Pell who brings Boston Bill back to Appaloosa for trial. Hitch is astounded to learn that Pell is Cole’s long-lost, and disreputable, half brother. More complications soon occur for Cole and Hitch. Westerns need atmosphere as much as story, and Knott has a knack for six-gun verisimilitude, sketching the land and summer heat, the horses and the shopkeepers. Knott’s especially good with the prototypical Old West marshal, Virgil Cole, “perfectly present in the here and now,” every inch stoic lawman: “ ‘Tangled goddam web,’ I said. ‘Is,’ Virgil said.” Other conversational exchanges, however, occasionally include idioms and phrasing seemingly too modern. Knott’s a descriptive writer—he sees a lawyer as “a tall narrow man with thick tangled eyebrows”—and his tale gallops along without confusing readers new to the series. The undercurrent of the unspoken mutual attraction between Hitch and Virgil’s common-law wife, Allie, continues to heat up the narrative, but this time Hitch takes comfort in the arms of the mysterious Daphne Angel, the gambling hall’s bookkeeper.
A tad off the bull’s-eye hit by Larry McMurtry’s Woodrow Call and Augustus McCrae adventures but a darn good way to pass an afternoon for Western fans.