Monday, August 12, 2013
Review Roundup: Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold
By Ford Fargo
Western Fictioneers, June 2013
$8.99 paperback, ISBN 1490356002
$2.99 Kindle, ASIN B00D6PPDNK
When the remnants of an outlaw gang attack innocent women at a local church, the men of Wolf Creek embark on a desperate mission to rid the territory of the desperados once and for all. Outlaws are never as easy to dispatch as one might hope, however, and this time Wolf Creek’s wolves may have met their match.
One of the most striking things about the Wolf Creek series is that even when a volume begins with a tidy, slice-of-life scene in what should be a sacrosanct setting, a subtle sense of impending doom sweeps across the pages like a gathering storm. Showdown at Demon’s Drop, the fifth volume in the addictive series of collaborative novels, opens on the ladies quilting circle that meets at a church on the edge of town. From the very first page, readers will wonder what’s up with schoolmarm Cora Sloan (penned by Bill Crider), whose secret is eating her alive from the inside.
Very quickly, the mystery of the schoolteacher’s past (which no doubt will be revealed in a future volume) takes a backseat to a larger threat that has loomed over the Kansas prairie since Volume 1. The surviving cutthroats from Wolf Creek: Bloody Trail want revenge on a man who used to be one of them, and they’ll let nothing stand in the way of their lust for the traitor’s blood. After murdering one innocent woman, they kidnap the minister’s wife as part of a plan to lure Derrick McCain (written by Cheryl Pierson), now a peaceful farmer, to his death.
As usual, other members of the ensemble cast refuse to let anyone go down without a no-holds-barred fight. In Showdown at Demon’s Drop, deputy and former New York City cop Seamus O’Connor (Wayne Dundee), enigmatic Black-Seminole scout Charlie Blackfeather (Troy D. Smith), gunsmith Dave Benteen (Robert J. Randisi), and blacksmith and diehard Confederate Angus “Spike” Sweeney (L.J. Martin) defy the brigands’ order that McCain come alone to a remote hideout only he knows how to find. Despite McCain’s demand that the others remain behind, they follow at a distance, devising their own revenge scheme.
McCain emerges as the standout in this volume, as might be expected since his predicament forms the heart of the story. Thanks to some stellar writing by all the contributors, Showdown at Demon’s Drop imbues a tale of evil and vengeance with very human, and very relatable, angst. The residents of Wolf Creek, all of them hardened by brutal — and largely mysterious — pasts are remarkably resilient. Some former secrets emerge into the light of day in Volume 5, but more arise to take their place.
There is no end to the intrigue in Wolf Creek, nor is there any shortage of grit in the series. Fans of western action will lose themselves in this volume as easily as they did in the previous four, and they’ll be just as eager for the release of the next book.
Kathleen Rice Adams is a Texan, a voracious reader, a professional journalist, and a novelist in training. She received a review copy of Wolf Creek Book 5: Showdown at Demon's Drop from the publisher. Her opinions are her own and are neither endorsed nor necessarily supported by Western Fictioneers or individual members of the organization.