Wednesday, 24 September 2008

The Fourth Horseman

 as by Martin Bishop
A Black Horse Western from Hale, 1989

A mystery rider has appeared and like a phantom he doesn’t leave tracks. Then the killings begin. Sheriff Hall begins putting the pieces together and soon the jigsaw is almost complete. When Talbot is shot the sheriff has reason to believe his theory is correct but then a stranger hits town. A cowboy with his silver decorated saddle and an entourage of bodyguards; he makes quite an impression on the folk of Bannonville. He makes an impression on the sheriff too, but an altogether different one...

Martin Bishop is one of the many pseudonyms used by Lauran Paine and here he starts the book off well with the mystery of the phantom rider. Plenty of questions about this horseman and the ensuing killings pulled me into the story.

Unfortunately I didn’t think Paine kept the mysterious elements going long enough. Shortly into the book the sheriff, and the reader, begin to figure out the plot and this is all to readily revealed in the storyline and all to soon the book falls into a familiar western tale.

The book is written well enough and proves an entertaining read that builds well to its straight forward, no twists, ending. Unfortunately I couldn’t help feeling cheated somewhat as the beginning promised so much.


Scott Parker said...

I've just discovered your site via James Reasoner's blog and I, personally, have just put a toe into the ocean that is western fiction. I've reviewed a couple of books at my blog, part of the Friday Forgotten Book initiative.

As to this review, it sounds like this novel is a little like a Scooby-Doo episode. That is, there is a mysterious element that is exposed to be some natural and banal. I love the idea of something strange happening in the old west and, had your review been more favorable, might have sought out this book.

Which brings me to a question: are there series (or one-off titles) that feature mystery stories in the old west? The first western I read was by William Colt MacDonald and featured Gregory Quist, railroad detective. I loved the book and want more in that vein. Any recommendations? Thanks.

Chap O'Keefe said...


For an answer to your question, start here

For more, try the same URL, /bhe11

I think you'd like the Joshua Dillard stories.

For a good piece on Lauran Paine, make it /bhe4

Cheers, Keith

Steve M said...

Hi Scott,

Many westerns have mystery elements in them, particulary if the main character is a lawman - although some of them are also your straight forward western plot - usually with having to work out who the killer is or just who is behind the crime/strange goings on.

I can't think of a single series that has a hero who gets involved in just solving mysteries.

I must admit I do prefer my western reading to involve a bit of mystery to the plot.

If you type mystery into the search box on this blog quite a few of the books that have been reviewed here will come up and some may appeal to you.

Keith's article should also help to point you in the right direction.

I'll make a post on my chat group, FrontierTimes, and see if anyone can come up with any suggestions. You'll find a link to FT on this blog.