Harper, January 1992
Lawlessness runs rampant in Missouri due to outlaws who are still killing for the dead Confederate cause. The worst gang operates in Cass County – farmers and store clerks by day, bandits and butchers by night. One of this gang has been captured, and the Attorney General wants Clay Torn to be the presiding judge at what could be a violent murder trial.
But to do his job, Clay must deal with ghosts of his own past, because the leader of the Cass County gang is Hadley Fourcade…and he and Clay have been trying to kill each other for fifteen years.
Having the Judge come face to face with Hadley Fourcade allows the author – Jason Manning writing as Hank Edwards – to fill in some of the back-story of Clay Torn. The long running feud began before the Civil War and many of chapters go back into the past to tell how this came about and how this continued through the War, and how the hatred grew.
The Civil War parts of the story are told in a factual way, occasionally coming over like a history lesson, and I wished that more time was taken to cover the actual battles. Although the clashes between the North and South are well told, I think more could have been made of the horrors of the battles Torn found himself in.
The story told in the books present threw in a number of surprises as to the identity of a couple of characters, and you had to wonder how Torn and the small group of lawmen he rode with could emerge victorious against such overwhelming odds.
Overall this book was an entertaining read that will, perhaps, be of more interest to fans of The Judge series, due to it telling of Clay Torn’s past, than a first time reader of this series. To the latter I’d suggest trying a couple of the earlier books first.