By Ralph Cotton
Signet, April 2012
Avrial “Rock” Rochenbach is a former Pinkerton detective who has found that the wrong side of the law pays better. But he may be in over his head when a thief named Andrew Grolin offers him fifty thousand dollars to help rob a U.S. Treasury Department freight car carrying a large amount of gold bullion. Problem is, Grolin’s gang doesn’t trust Rock, and most of them are just awaiting an opportunity to put a bullet in his back – once they have the gold.
Now Rock has to gain the confidence of some of the West’s most notorious outlaws to save his hide – while protecting his true identity as an undercover U.S. secret service agent….
Midnight Rider is a nickname given to Rochenbach as he prefers to work during the darkness of night. Rock makes for an intriguing hero, one who has to keep his true identity a secret from both friend and foe. Rock rides with, and fights, other equally as memorable characters, Giant and Casings being but two of them.
Ralph Cotton definitely knows how to pace a story, how to keep the reader hooked. There’s plenty of gun action as outlaws double-cross each other and Rock plays them against their comrades. As his dangerous game unfolds Rock gets caught sending secret messages and the reader has to wonder how he can escape with his life and his true mission still hidden and achievable.
There’s plenty of exciting and gripping action such as the gunfight involving a blind man, another being the train robbery itself. Ralph Cotton also writes some very tense scenes when Rock finds himself a prisoner of a group of soldiers, neither side quite believing that each is exactly who they say they are. There are also a couple of neat twists to the tale, and a touch of mystery as to the identity of the person who supplies the outlaws with information.
As far as I know Avrial Rochenbach first appeared in Ralph Cotton’s previous book, one of his Will Summer’s series, Incident at Gunn Point. According to the back of that book, Midnight Rider is the first in a new series, and on the strength of this story I hope the series is set for a long run.