Thursday 8 March 2012

The Brothers O'Brien

By William W. Johnstone with J.A. Johnstone
Pinnacle, February 2012

The War Between the States has ended. Now, driven from Texas by carpetbaggers, former CSA Colonel Shamus O’Brien sets off for a new frontier – New Mexico. Here, where land is cheap, bandits shoot to kill, and rustlers rule the night, it takes more than one man to run a ranch. So he offers a partnership to his eldest son, Sam, with equal shares going to his sons Patrick, Shawn, and Jacob. Together, the brothers O’Brien will defend their homestead, the Dromore, in the violent, lawless land…and when necessary, administer their own brand of frontier justice.

The Brothers O’Brien is the first in a brand new series from the Johnstone family, and like any pilot episode this one has a fair portion of the book taken up with Shamus O’Brien’s background and telling how he built up the Dromore. Right from the beginning we meet a young woman who will also have an important role to play in this fast flowing and tough story that for the first part leaps through the years effortlessly as the author tells the important incidents that shape both the O’Brien’s and their ranch.

Once the brothers are grown-up and become partners is when the story really picks up a gear as a brewing range war threatens to spill over and bring disaster to the Dromore. The brothers O’Brien ride to try to stop this without getting involved within the war.

The number of brothers means the author concentrates on one or two more than the others (something that I expect will change book to book) and here the main character is Jacob, the only brother who doesn’t want to remain on the ranch. He’s content to drift and live by his wits and gun, this latter ability making him much needed in settling the range war problem. Tenderness within him is shown when he adopts a kitten and this contrasts well with his tough side.

The story also becomes more complicated when a second extremely strong scheming woman is introduced who looks set to get the better of the O’Brien’s and anyone else she comes up against. She is a master at playing people against one another.

There are other characters out to get what they can too, and all these plotlines means the story moves through a series of exciting twists and turns before everything is resolved.

The Brothers O’Brien is a fast moving, action-packed, story that proved to be very difficult to put down and left me looking forward to the second book, Shadow of the Hangman, which should be out in a couple of months time.

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