GIDEON RYDER #1
By Lyle Brandt
Berkley, December 2013
Five days after General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, President Abraham Lincoln is mortally wounded by an assassin’s bullet. Scattered Confederate forces ignore the armistice, determined to continue the Civil War despite the Union victory. American citizens, tired of years of bloodshed, want nothing more than to rebuild a country vulnerable to corruption and criminal enterprises.
Disgraced ex-Deputy U.S. Marshal Gideon Ryder has been given a second chance to serve his country – as an agent of the newly created United States Secret Service. Assigned to investigate a smuggling ring operating out of Galveston Island on the Gulf Coast of Texas, Ryder must navigate his way through the population of immigrants, sailors, former slaves, and ex-Rebels to infiltrate a gang of outlaws more deadly and dangerous than the Secret Service could have imagined…
The first part of this book deals with the assassination of President Lincoln and the author includes a lot of historical information of the hunt for those who were behind the shooting. During this we witness how these events help persuade Gideon Ryder to agree to work for the just formed Secret Service. Although, at times, this section of the book does read a little like a history lesson, it also makes for some fascinating reading.
Once Ryder is assigned to his case the story becomes full of intrigue, questions and action. And this is where the book takes on a different slant to many of the westerns I’ve read as a lot of this tale takes place at sea, which makes for some first-rate scenes on ships including a violent attack by pirates.
Ryder easily infiltrates the gang he’s been sent to bring to justice, he isn’t interested in killing them or busting them up, his job is to find evidence so others can close them down. But with one of the gang members not believing he’s who he says he is it isn’t long before Ryder is fighting for his life.
Lyle Brandt is a pseudonym used by Michael Newton and he sure knows how to write exciting action sequences such as the already mentioned pirate attack, along with a couple of terrific saloon shootouts. There’s also a spectacular scene where Ryder singlehandedly destroys a ship. Characters are well crafted and the story moves forward at an excellent pace.
On finishing the story I find myself hoping it’s not too long before the second book in the series is published.