By Ben Coady
Hale, June 2012
Against the odds, having hunted down and cornered the notorious outlaw Frank Cuskin, Marshal Abe Ryan realizes that his problems are only just beginning. Lack of sleep, the desert, Indians, Cuskin’s polecat kin, thirst and exhaustion are a combination which, on the long ride ahead, make it ever more likely that Ryan’s mission will end in failure.
When Cuskin gets the upper hand and leaves him for dead, a lesser man than Abe Ryan would have abandoned the task and traded the dangers of his mission for his previous easy life of town marshal. But Ryan is not a lesser man, and he will use every weapon in his arsenal to deliver the killer to the gallows.
From what I can gather this is Ben Coady’s twelfth Black Horse Western and it’s the first I’ve read.
For roughly the first half of the book Ben Coady only introduces four characters, two being Ryan and Cuskin, the others being one who staggers in only to die moments later, and the final person who has a major role to play in the plot. During this part of the story Ryan has time to reflect on his life and on his untold love for Kate Collins. A message from Kate further into the tale causing him to have to make a difficult decision that could affect his future relationship with her.
The pace of the book is rapid and includes some great descriptive passages, most memorable for me when Ryan is left for dead with predators closing in and him being unable to defend himself. Ben Coady also creates some good tension when Ryan finally tracks down Cuskin again and has to get him out of an outlaw stronghold.
Ben Coady, which is a pseudonym for James O’Brien, writes well, in an easy to read style. He likes to use brackets, and does this quite a lot. Chapters and scene ends often finish with a cliff-hanger situation or a dramatic revelation that make it difficult to put the book down before the final page is reached and everything is resolved satisfactory.