Sunday 1 December 2013

Trouble at Nathan's Ford

By Jack Sheriff
Hale, November 2013

When a planned bank robbery in Drystone City results in the death of the owner’s wife, Cage turns his back on lawlessness and heads home. But when he arrives in the border town of Nathan’s Ford, he has been followed by his nemesis and rides into tragedy. With his family’s ranch burned to the ground, and his parents and brother murdered by Mexican rustlers, Cage – aided by childhood friend Velvet Goodwine and reluctant bank owner Milton Guthrie – sets off in pursuit of the killers.

A confrontation with the rustlers leads to the unmasking of the man behind the deaths, and a bloody finale, which leaves Cage fighting desperately for his life and the lives of the only friends he has left.

Jack Sheriff can always be relied on to present the reader with what at first appears to be a straightforward western tale but then adds twists and turns to ensure you’ll be wondering just how the story will end.

His character studies are excellent but in this case it’s his descriptions of fear and exhaustion and the human will to carry on at all costs that came over so powerfully to me. Just read the scene of a desperate struggle not to drown for one example of this.

Yes, I had my suspicions as to who killed the bankers’ wife, and yes I was correct, but how the killer died came as a complete surprise; understated and neatly done.

Velvet Goodwine (what a great name) deserves a mention as she proves to be an exceptional female lead whose knowledge of some of the other characters more than helps in unmasking the person behind the murder of Cage’s family. Velvet’s ability with firearms, both handgun and rifle, are used to great effect too.

Trouble at Nathan’s Ford is a book that I believe should be enjoyed by all who like fast moving traditional westerns and I’m certainly looking forward to the next book from John Paxton Sheriff, under whichever of his pseudonyms it is published.

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