Saturday, 13 June 2020

Blood Trail

number 10 of 24
By Bill Reno
Bantam, April 1989
Cover art by Shannon Stirnweiss

“Mad Dog” Duke Malone has some scores to settle, and he likes killing – a lot. When he breaks out of a Texas prison hell-bent on revenge, a lot of folks stand a good chance of dying. Chief among them is Sheriff Colby Tucker, who arrested the outlaw and put him away. But Mad Dog guns down Tucker’s son by mistake, and then leaves a trail of blood clear across the state as he goes to dig up the loot from a previous holdup. Tucker sets out to avenge his son and bring Mad Dog to justice. The lawman had planned on retiring, and this hunt will be his last act as sheriff. It might be his last act – period.

This is another very good entry in what, for me, has been an excellent series so far. It’s a series you can dip in to anywhere as each book is a standalone novel featuring different people. The books are linked by the fact the one of the lead characters wears a badge of some kind. Having said that, there are a couple of lawmen who appear in more than one book.

Mad Dog rides with a couple of ex-prison guards who helped him escape. They’ve been promised a share of the hidden loot for their reward. These two men begin to have second thoughts as they witness brutal killings carried out by Malone, and are shocked at his total disregard for human life, guilt or innocent.

The mistaken killing of Sheriff Colby’s son is handled well by the author, and the reason for this happening is totally plausible. The heartbreak of this incident is moving and this is the kind of scene Bill Reno excels at. 

The author regularly switches between Mad Dog and the pursuing lawman. As the death toll mounts you do have to wonder if Colby will catch up with Malone before he kills all those on his hit list. Colby is joined on the trail by his other son, who’s also a lawman, and soon matters are further complicated as a young woman, the only survivor of a Mad Dog massacre, insists on riding with them too. She could be a major problem as she is Malone’s daughter. The final showdown makes for some exciting reading and is as savage as all that has gone before it.  

I’ve always enjoyed the dark tones that some of the previous books have had, but this one doesn’t match them in that sense. This story is more of a straight-forward gritty read that includes a lot of bloody hard-hitting action. I found Blood Trail to be a very entertaining tale and I look forward to reading the next book very soon.

Bill Reno is a pen-name of Lew A. Lacy who has written many other westerns under his own name and other pseudonyms.

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