THE LONER #4
By J.A. Johnstone
Pinnacle, February 2010
Using an old cannon that once belonged to Napoleon’s army, an outlaw gang has been bringing trains to a halt and then robbing them. Now Edward Sheffield – one of the owners of the railroad – wants to hire Conrad Morgan, known as The Loner, to wipe the gang off the map. The Loner isn’t interested, especially when Sheffield’s hot-blooded wife tries to seduce him into going after the gang’s leader, Gideon Black – a renegade ex-colonel-turned-outlaw. But when the gang turns their big gun on a town, killing several innocent people, The Loner has to choose sides. The best way to take them out? Become one of them. And that’s when The Loner uncovers some unsavoury secrets – and finds himself caught between the middle of two ruthless forces…
The use of a cannon makes for some terrific battle scenes in this action packed book, in particular its use in holding up a train. Conrad’s struggle to survive this attack makes for some very exciting and visual reading.
This story also sees Conrad’s attire becoming more like that depicted by the cover artist. The silver banded hat being used in a novel and effective way in a scene that reminded me of the use of a silver lined cloak in the spaghetti western They Call Him Holy Ghost. Great stuff both.
The author uses plenty of cliff-hanger chapter endings and this technique makes the book very difficult to put down as the need to know what happens next ensures the reader keeps turning the pages. Even though this is a self-contained story the book finishes with The Loner and someone else riding on towards their destiny, but the only way to find out whether they are still together in the next book is to read it, something this kind of ending always makes me want to do straight away.
Overall this is a very good western, written superbly, and on it strengths, and those of the previous three books, this series has become my favourite of those to come from the Johnstone family stable.