by B.J. Holmes
A Black Horse Western from Hale, 1992
In their physical appearance the Branston brothers displayed an obvious family resemblance, but underneath the skin, they couldn’t have been more different. Joe was a loser, a hobo on horseback, not above swamping saloons for cents as he bummed his way across the west. Billy was a go-getter, making it with the girls; the young kid with the Midas touch, setting up his own ranch in Texas. When Joe found he couldn’t even earn a few pesos in Mexico, he decided to ride north and look up his kid brother. So, when he finally made it to Brightwater, he was full of expectations that his life was to take a turn. It changed direction all right, but not in the way he expected.
B.J. Holmes has a great knack for hooking his reader right from the beginning and not letting him go until the end. Here it’s done by having Joe arrive in Brightwater just in time to witness a funeral, which turns out to be his brother's. It seems Billy died of an accident, something Joe finds hard to believe. The local law – and indeed the other townsfolk – are of the opinion of “good riddance to bad trash”, something Joe cannot accept.
Holmes soon has the reader sharing Joe’s frustrations as he attempts to discover the truth about his brother’s activities. His disbelief at the accusations being part of the well-written book that had this reader not wanting to put the book down until the truth was discovered.
Even though I guessed the twist ending it didn’t really spoil what is in fact a great book, a fast, easy to read story, without padding, that ties everything up neatly at the end.
Well worth keeping an eye out for.