Before I get to the book a personal note---Twenty-seven years ago today I married a young lady by the name of Sandi in a church in Boston. The same church that both her parents and her grandparents had been married in many years earlier. Considering the fact that it was 100 degrees that June day in Boston and our limo had no air-conditioning at all that should have been a sign that things would be a little off. Another sign should have been the fact that the pants of my tux didn’t fit and the pins I, my best man, and others had put in didn’t hold. Nothing quite like the sound of a metal pin flying and hitting off of things every time I knelt or stood up. Needless to say that was one of the reasons why our wedding pictures are rather interesting.
If we hadn’t figured things out by that night considering all that and a few other things, we should have realized something was up the next morning when in the dawn's early light it was 28 and snowing heavily. This Texas boy was far from home with nothing but shorts and t-shirts, one pair of jeans, and a strong conviction that snow in June was a sign of up north freakiness. 27 years later it has been a massive amount of sickness, very little health, a massive amount of poverty, and a heap of struggle. The last two and half years have been absolutely brutal for so many reasons. But, somehow we are still here. Thanks to the doctors and a ton of luck and prayers, Sandi is thankfully still alive and currently in remission.
Today is also Friday and that means it is time for Friday’s Forgotten Books hosted by Patti Abbott over on her blog at http://pattinase.blogspot.com/ So, I will quit talking about us and move on to the book in question…….
It’s the summer of 1890 and while phones are a new novelty that may or may not survive, death is nothing new. As this western mystery opens, Sheriff Jeff Scott leads a group of investigators composed of Doctor Chester Reynolds, (also the La Roca County Corner), Constable Kurtz, and Undersheriff Elwood Riley out to an isolated homestead in the San Juan Valley. A week earlier in the smoldering remains of his cabin, the owner was found dead, burned beyond recognition. All that was left of Konrad Schwable was a few bones.
By now, a week later, the trail has gone cold but it took time for the investigators to get to the La Quinta area from the county seat of La Roca. That the man is dead is easy to discern. How he died and why he died is much harder to determine. Each man has a working theory as to how and why and with no obvious evidence, Sheriff Scott allows each to pursue his own relatively independent investigation. After all, it is an election year and all four men are once more running for office with the added complication of Undersheriff Riley seeking the office of Sheriff. In a related secondary storyline, Riley also wants the daughter of the Sheriff to marry him.
With a possible love triangle involved in the death of Konrad Schwable, rustlers known as the “night riders” operating in the area, ongoing land fraud involving homesteads, and other things including election year politics and the beast known as progress, movement in the case is slow with most of the novel devoted to character development. Gradually, over 319 pages in a novel that shifts continuously between the many characters, a picture of what happened and why begins to take shape. Along the way, readers are treated to an enjoyable mystery that not only shows how life was like a little over 100 years ago, but also that for all the modern marvels, basic human qualities haven’t changed much if at all.
Sadly the author passed in November 2008.
Allen P. Bristow
July 12, 2005
Back long ago this material was supplied by the author in exchange for my objective review. Much of this review originally appeared at OnceWritten.com where I was a reviewer a number of years ago.
Kevin R. Tipple © 2006, 2012