By Phil Dunlap
Berkley, January 2012
When several notorious gunslingers begin drifting into Apache Springs, Sheriff Cotton Burke discovers that Bart Havens, a thieving banker he’d once run out of Texas for defrauding the citizenry, is behind an ingenious plot that could put the town, the bank, and many of the ranchers into bankruptcy – and put a fortune into his own pocket.
But Havens wants something more important than money: revenge. He’s shelled out a thousand dollars apiece to hired killers to gun down the sheriff. With only his hard-drinking deputy, Memphis Jack Stump, and his Apache friend, Henry Coyote, guarding his back, Cotton must stop Haven’s scheme while running a gauntlet against some of the most merciless gunslingers in the West…
The second book in Phil Dunlap’s Sheriff Cotton Burke series sees him developing his main characters, and some of the returning secondary characters, amid a very fast moving and ever twisting storyline that made for a hard-to-put-down read.
Phil Dunlap lays his story out in short scenes that switch from one character to another effortlessly, thus enabling the reader to follow the plans of all involved. As each layer of the plot unfurled I couldn’t help but wonder how Cotton and Burke had any hope of stopping Haven and his gunfighters, particularly when I discovered that not all the characters are who they said they were, and that others had their own agendas to get rich quick from the situation.
The story offers plenty of gunplay as each twist to the tale leads to another surprising event or revelation, with one plot thread seeing the lawman and the gunfighters hired to kill them standing side by side to defend the town from a group of angry ranchers who have fallen victim to the scheming Havens.
Even when the power struggle between Havens and those who oppose him is resolved, Phil Dunlap has another unforeseen twist waiting that adds an excellent sting-in-the-tale that in turn brings about a terrific and just ending to the story.
Book three can’t come fast enough for me.