Sunday 29 July 2012

The Bells of El Diablo

By Frank Leslie
Signet, July 2012

As the Civil War rages through the South, two men take fate into their own hands as fortune hunters and venture into Mexico, where the sacred Bells of El Diablo, forged of pure gold, are said to be buried….

The son of a wealthy plantation owner, Confederate lieutenant James Dunn is young, brash, and a fierce fighter. But during a guerrilla mission in the north Georgia mountains, he learns firsthand how horrific and destructive the war really is. Having lost his taste for bloodshed after a brutal act on a night-cloaked bridge, he deserts…and he isn’t alone.

Crosseye Reeves, a former sharecropper on the Dunn plantation, witnesses James’s moment of horror. And he’s had his own bellyful of war. Together, the men make for Denver, where a tale of treasure in Mexico gives them a new destination…and perhaps even new lives.

This book is filled with superb characters be they friend or foe, some of who might just help James Dunn find redemption from the gut-wrenching act of violence that sees him desert from the army. Frank Leslie sure doesn’t believe in giving his heroes an easy time, and Dunn perhaps suffers more than any other character he’s created.

The story pounds along at a rapid pace, full of strong dialogue, terrific descriptive passages that make you feel like you share the emotions of the characters or are there in the savage landscapes with them. Action comes thick and fast and is often graphically described, as Dunn and Reeves have to battle Apaches and other enemies for possession of the bells...bells that might not even exist.

Frank Leslie includes many twists and turns to the plot before springing a final surprising revelation about one of the characters during the spectacular bullet sprayed ending that sets the seed for a follow-up book, and as I’ve seen it mentioned that this one is the first in a new series, I can only hope I don’t have to wait too long to find out what happens next.

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