The first rider had vanished.
The second filled a pine box in the mission graveyard.
The third was Mel Rawlins, and he wasn’t going to let anything stand in his way. He had left the Stirrup ranch a boy and came back a tough, bitter man. But the Stirrup had changed more than he had. His father was murdered, his two brothers gone, and the lawman who had married Mel’s sister carried a warrant for his arrest.
Now Mel rode for vengeance. He meant to find the vicious El Patrone, whose outlaw band had swept up from the South, burning barns, killing and slaughtering the cattle they did not steal in a senseless orgy of violence.
Peter Germano, writing as Barry Cord, creates some superb atmosphere throughout this book. Many scenes end in such a way that the reader shares the feelings of bitterness, loneliness, despair, and the sense of impending danger with Mel Rawlins, Germano’s choice of words vividly painting haunting images within my mind.
The story is filled with fascinating characters from the bad, the evil, and the innocent – the latter beautifully portrayed in the young girl Loan. Germano also hints that some, if not all, of these people may, or may not, be who they claim to be. The plot is filled with twists and turns, lies, treachery, mistrusts, and gripping action. Germano has Rawlins struggling to discover the hidden truths of what is going on in this small coastal town. The answers are kept from the reader too, and I never guessed what they were. Just what was the secret of the ship that unloaded only undercover of the fog? Who were behind the attempts on Rawlins life and why? Just what part did Loan have to play? And what had happened to the first and second riders?
All this is told at tremendous pace in a fast flowing style that makes the book difficult to put down. Once again Peter Germano proves to be up there with the very best western writers. And of the few Barry Cord books I’ve read so far, this has to be one of my favourites.