SWEAZY, LARRY D. The Badger’s Revenge. Berkley Publishing. Softcover, 320 pps., $6.99. ISBN 9780425240489.
The third book in Sweazy’s Josiah Wolfe, Texas Ranger series, The Badger’s Revenge, is aptly titled, as the book serves up that cold dish left, right, and center. It also whips up a mess of guns, heat, trail dust, Texas Rangers, Comanche Indians, and people stuck in hard-luck lives, doing their best with the cards they’ve been dealt. This time out, Josiah Wolfe has a price on his head. He is dogged by two Comanche scouts, a murderous Irishman nicknamed The Badger, and the whiff of something—or someone—unseen and dangerous.
It’s a pleasure for me to sink back into the dusty, dangerous, and complex world of everyman Josiah Wolfe. His rich inner monologues, his self-doubts, and his moments of emotional vulnerability counter the convictions that form who he is and what he stands for. But in The Badger’s Revenge, that rigid moral core threatens to fill him completely.
As with all of Sweazy’s characters, Wolfe is refreshingly human. Even the bad guys aren’t wholly bad, they’re driven by understandable, if unacceptable, impulses. Wolfe is still plagued by a bloody war and the brutal deaths of his wife and daughters. His young son is a constant reminder of what should have been, and his trying friendship with Scrap Elliott hints at something unknown, but looming.
The Badger’s Revenge is a richly layered story that offers twists and turns that dare the reader to speculate who is guilty and why. There is blood, killing, deceit, anger, mistrust, and betrayal and, in the midst of it, Josiah Wolfe does his best to keep it all at arm’s length as he tries to make sense of the mayhem, even as bullets whistle by his ears. My only complaint is that since I have grown so fond of these characters and Sweazy’s artful unfolding of their predicaments, I have to wait for the fourth book before I find out what happens next.
—Matthew P. Mayo