After a yearlong hiatus, Marshal Virgil Cole and Deputy Marshall Everett Hitch return for their tenth adventure in the latest novel from New York Times bestseller Robert Knott (Robert B. Parker’s Revelation, 2017, etc.), his sixth entry in the franchise to date.
Borrowing a theme from George R.R. Martin’s iconic series, when readers finally meet back up with Cole and Hitch, winter (or, more appropriately, a winter storm) is coming . . . and with it, all kinds of trouble.
That’s about where the Game of Thrones comparisons end—no White Walkers here, or battle for the Iron Throne—though there is a shift in power. Sheriff Chastain, the longtime top lawman is Appaloosa, is dead, and there’s no shortage of people who are eager to assume the open position. Meanwhile, a sale between Henri Baptiste and James McCormick, who is still new to the town, has caused a number of hurt feelings when McCormick finds gold on the plot of land he just purchased. That revelation leads to Baptiste wanting and begging to buy the land back, though McCormick, a seasoned rancher, proves unwilling to engage in any such deal.
In the end, Baptiste refuses to go quietly. Fueled by deep-seated regret and envy, he hires Victor Bartholomew a known gunslinger with all the vibrato of a mafia henchman, to intimidate McCormick and his brother into giving the land back. Instead of backing down, James hires his own muscle, and soon both sides find themselves in a Mexican standoff, with neither side willing to stand down. This, of course, puts a damper on the forthcoming Appaloosa Days—a longstanding tradition designed to embrace and celebrate the local culture and tradition—which Cole’s lover, Allie French, is in charge of helping to plan and put together.
Forced to step in, Cole and Hitch try to keep things from escalating. Things worsen, though, when just as a devastating storm is set to rock Appaloosa, the duo discover that a dangerous escaped convict with ties to the town has set his sights on returning . . . and that he’s leaving a trail of blood and bodies in his wake.
Robert Knott is a talented writer, but there’s no doubt that these books won’t appeal to everyone. It’s not a stretch to suggest that only those with the strongest desires to explore the old Wild West will enjoy this book, but the same could be said for the rest of the franchise as well. The problem here is that the first act of the story is pretty slow, even by old west standards, and if you don’t find the squabble between Baptiste and McCormick interesting and engaging (which it’s not very, as both men whine and plead with Cole and Hitch to do something about the other), then there’s very little reason to continue onward into the book’s middle pages, which do heat up when a series of anonymous letters to the editor of the Appaloosa Star become more alarming, foreshadowing the dangerous force about to enter Cole and Hitch’s world.
Told once again through Hitch’s first-person account, Robert Knott’s latest stays true to Robert B. Parker’s series and characters—and while longtime readers will likely enjoy another ride through Appaloosa with their two heroes, the slower plot and lack of suspense early on makes this one a bit of an acquired taste.
Author: Robert Knott
Series: Cole and Hitch #10
Pages: 496 (Hardcover)
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: May 7, 2019
Book Spy Rating: 6.0/10
Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.