Knott (Robert B. Parker’s Blackjack, 2016, etc.) continues Parker’s Western series, this time sending U.S. Territorial Marshal Virgil Cole and Deputy Marshal Everett Hitch in pursuit of killers fleeing from an Arizona Territory prison.
The escapees from rugged and isolated Cibola prison have scattered, but as the marshals saddle up and head out from Appaloosa, Hitch thinks he glimpses the baddest of the bad, a brilliant megalomaniac named Driggs. As the tale unfolds, there’s back story revealing a connection between Hitch and Driggs. With another escaped homicidal maniac with the personality of "a pissed-off griz" roaming the backcountry, Cole can't dally over worries about his longtime lover, Allie French. An eccentric but seemingly pleasant fellow named Vandervoort has brought big money to Appaloosa, and Allie’s opened Mrs. French’s Fine Dresses to join in the boom. With hints that Driggs is a deviant sexual sadist, Allie’s shop plays into the story’s end. Sand, saddles, and six-guns make a Western, but the setting here is only about half an inch deep. Neither protagonist nor villain is given a special affection for horses, magnificent open spaces, or other staples of Old West tales. The story is in the chase, from mines to exotic hot springs resorts, bad men and a few good men meeting their maker. The dialogue sometimes gallops, with conversations so abbreviated as to make Clint Eastwood sound like a chatterbox: "Been a bunch of it of late," I said. "More than," Virgil said. "That time of the year," I said. "Is." Knott has fun by repeatedly dropping in oddball collective nouns—a cete of badgers, gaggle of geese, and murder of crows.
A classic plot and plenty of 8-gauge shotgun showdowns best enjoyed by those who’ve followed Cole and Hitch’s previous adventures.