Wednesday, 31 May 2023


By William W. Johnstone and J.A. Johnstone
Pinnacle Books, May 2023

John Holt is a traveling gunslinger. He’s been liberating dirty towns west of the Mississippi of murdering outlaw trash ever since the Civil War ended. No questions asked. Payment on demand.

Holt’s latest job is in Devil’s Gulch in Colorado Territory. But wiping out bands of bank robbers is just the beginning. More disorder is brewing, and the skittish mayor has handpicked Holt as the new sheriff. Holt is what the town needs: a mercenary with a badge, a loaded Remington, and a deadeye-aim for trouble.

Devil’s Gulch has the vigilante committee. The man behind it – Joe Mullen, the largest rancher and mine owner in the valley – isn’t keen on an outsider like Holt muscling in on a good thing. Mullen already has his hand in all the crime in Devil’s Gulch. He also triggers it. He likes keeping things wild. With the barbaric Bostrom brood under his command, he’s hoping it stays that way.

Holt quickly finds himself on familiar ground: up against cutthroats on the other side of the only law that counts. Holt’s law. Devil’s Gulch is his town now. And he’s itching to clean it till it sparkles.

Devil’s Gulch is the first book in another new series from the Johnstone’s. If the following books are as good as this one, then the Johnstone’s have yet another hit series on their hands.

John Holt is tough. Real tough. As soon as he arrives in Devil’s Gulch, he begins laying down the law. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like his rules as long as you follow them. If you don’t, you’re likely to be on the receiving end of a fist or bullet. If you’re still alive you’ll find yourself in jail damn quick. It doesn’t matter who you are either. Holt is not here to make friends, just do his job, his way.

To say Holt’s brutal attitude doesn’t go down well with the townsfolk, including those who hired him, is an understatement of magnificent proportions. Seems the only person that likes him is the undertaker who see’s Holt’s methods as good for business. Leading Sibert to say he wants a statue erected in Holt’s honor as he’s better for his business than the plague.

As well as outlawry there is political turmoil in Devil’s Gulch. Different sides vying for control. Even people on the same side are ready to double-cross each other without hesitation. Holt really does have his hands full of trouble, and judges and lawyers give him even more headaches to contend with. 

As you’ll now realize, there is a lot going on in this book. The author weaves his various plot threads in an entwined ball that will take Holt a lot of strength, and bullets, to untangle. There are many other great characters too, strong-willed men and women that are a joy to read about, be they good or evil or somewhere in between. All this makes Devil’s Gulch a gripping read. The author also includes some terrific twists that I didn’t see coming, especially the connection between Mullen and the Bostrom gang. The final few chapters also spring some excellent surprises that really made me wonder how this story was going to end. 

Whoever wrote this book really does know how to ensnare a reader and ensure they keep turning the pages. The closing scenes really left me looking forward to the second book in the series, Shooting Iron, that is set to be released in October. 

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