Friday 18 November 2022


Number 14 of 24
By Bill Reno
Cover art by Shannon Stirnweis
Bantam Books, December 1989

The desert town of Raton, New Mexico, metes out justice swift and severe. When respected Marshal Dan Washburn is gunned down in cold blood, the townsfolk exact their own brand of revenge with a hangman’s rope. But U.S. Marshal Ben Bryce thinks they hanged the wrong man, and he’s the one lawman bold enough to stand up to the town and tough enough to go after the real killer – someone who has a score to settle with the whole Washburn clan. Bryce has only one weakness: he’s fallen in love with Dan Washburn’s pretty young daughter. And now, as the buzzards circle, he alone stands between her and the bloodlust of a crazed killer.

Each book in this series is a stand-alone novel, all that links them is that the main character wears a badge of some kind. The Gallows is one of the best books in the series as far as I’m concerned.

The book starts with a hanging that doesn’t quite go as planned. This leads to the people of Raton deciding they need purpose-built gallows rather than using a horse and a tree. Soon after the this, the incident depicted on the book cover takes place and U.S. Marshal Ben Bryce rescues the daughter of Dan Washburn from three outlaws. Bryce is wounded during this and remains in town to recover, and it’s whilst being tended to by Washburn’s daughter, Lisa, that they begin to fall in love, much to the disgust of Washburn’s deputy, Ned Mills, who believes Lisa is going to marry him.

The author introduces many characters, fleshing them out well, making the reader care about their futures, their hopes, their dreams. Not everyone is quite as likeable though, and some of these make threats against Washburn. Others smoulder with their own hatred and this could explode into violence at any time. The author increases tensions extremely well and when Washburn is gunned down by a killer unknown the reader will have many suspicions as to who might have done it and why, and this is where the problems lie, as there are many possible culprits. Bryce tries to work out who the killer is, yet clues are thin on the ground. Then the bodies really begin to pile up as more of the Washburn’s meet violent ends. Trying to work out who the killer was, is what really hooked me, drew me deep into this gripping tale.

Bill Reno is pseudonym used by Lew A. Lacy and I’ve yet to read a book by him I haven’t enjoyed. His tales often contain many twists and turns, and that is the case in this story. I’ve found you can never be sure who will survive, be they main characters or secondary and that certainly applies to this book. The ending was both shocking and surprising and produced an ending I shall remember for a long time and left me looking forward to reading the next book in the series as soon as I can. 

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