When beautiful Bethany Hale comes to Abilene she turns heads – and stirs up trouble when she starts preaching her anti-alcohol message. Before Deputy Cody Fisher can join the crusade, three of Abilene’s citizens die of poisoned liquor, and Marshal Luke Travis knows he’s got a murderer on his hands. But when he traces the spiked whiskey to a family of moonshiners outside of town the hunt has only begun. Someone is trying to drive the moonshiners out of business – and the greed-fueled struggle is about to explode. A band of gunmen is thundering towards Abilene – and Luke Travis is fighting fire with fire!
Bethany Hale is a great character, that may or may not be who she says. Her one-woman mission to banish liquor from Abilene makes for some exciting, and sometimes humorous reading. Her beauty sees jealous rivalry torment Deputy Cody Fisher, who can’t believe Bethany seems to favour his brother Reverend Judah Fisher over him. There is similar competition as two of the moonshiners fight for the attention of a waitress, which could turn violent at any moment.
Bethany recruits help to her cause from some of the local woman, who are very keen to help someone sent to Abilene by the Christian Ladies Temperance group. Their first act is to put on a morality play to drive home the evils of alcohol which doesn’t work out as intended. Bethany also tries to shut down saloons singlehandedly which results in a well-written barroom brawl featuring a catfight of epic proportions.
Mixed in with all this are the three murders. Could Bethany be involved? Someone else? Even as suspicions seem to point to the truth, Travis has a major problem – a complete lack of evidence. Double-cross leads to more deaths and a frantic final showdown in the streets of Abilene.
Justin Ladd is a pseudonym used by James Reasoner and, for me and many other western readers, his name guarantees a well-crafted tale that will hold your attention from the opening scenes. Characters and storyline and the twists and turns to the plot kept me guessing as to just how the book would finish and left me wanting to read the next entry in the series as soon as I can.