By Don Bendell
Berkley, September 2010
A son of both the Sioux and the white worlds, Joshua Strongheart has two prized possessions – his father’s bowie knife and his stepfather’s Colt .45 Peacemaker – entrusted to him by his dying mother, who made Joshua promise to use them with honor and respect.
In the Colorado Rockies, Joshua falls prey to the cold-blooded McMahon brothers. When they take his pistol and knife, they have no idea what’s hidden inside the money belt – crucial War Department documents, signed by the president, ordering a fair trial for Captain Jack, captured chief of the Modoc tribe. Now Joshua must recover both his birthrights and the secret papers – before violence erupts across the West…
The blurb above, taken from the back of the book, covers only a small part of this well written story. When Joshua is robbed so is a female passenger, Annabelle, and it’s a promise to her, to get back her stolen antique ring, that sees Joshua tracking down the outlaws, and it’s this that is the main theme of the book.
Strongheart makes for an excellent hero. Don Bendell fills his background in well, and presents Joshua as a somewhat reckless man. Just witness how Strongheart stands in the open, or walks straight at his enemy, as gunfire is directed towards at him, to see what I mean. It’s no wonder he suffers from so many wounds. The action sequences are very well described, as are the descriptions of the landscapes Strongheart finds himself in.
This is the first book I’ve read by Don Bendell – in fact this is his first western in ten years – and I was surprised at how much detail he goes into in describing the trails, towns, and locations, his story is set in. He not only gives the background to places, and origins of their names, but also tells you what they’ve become today. This usually takes a couple of pages, and even though it doesn’t do anything to move the story forward, does provide some fascinating reading. It's not just places that are described in such detail; the bloodline of a horse is also covered in similar detail. For my tastes, though, I did feel this was a little overdone and I found myself speed-reading these sections as I wanted to get back to the action. Having said that these parts didn’t really dampen my enjoyment of the story and I’m sure I shall read the next one in the series, Blood Feather, when it appears sometime next year, as Pinkerton agent Joshua Strongheart is a memorable hero.