Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Devil's Lair by Peter Brandvold (Lou Prophet Western series)

Since the elimination of the gang that killed her family, Louisa Bonaventure has formed a partnership of sorts with Lou Prophet, bounty hunter. But their time together is limited to occasional jobs like catching the Thorson-Mahoney gang in the act of robbing a stagecoach. Otherwise, as Louisa puts it, "We both have men to hunt." So after said job is done, Louisa is not much a part of The Devil's Lair.

This novel, the sixth in the Lou Prophet "Devil" series, focuses on Prophet's delivery of the gang to Bitter Creek and how he gets drafted into defending the town from Sam Scanlon after the marshal and his deputy are lynched in the town center. Performing such work for no reward rubs Prophet the wrong way, and he's rubbed even wronger when he wakes up from a night-long drunk to find the marshal's badge pinned to his own buckskins. But if there's one thing that will make Lou Prophet cleave to a badge he doesn't want, it's finding out somebody else doesn't want him to have it.

Someone is taking potshots at Prophet anonymously, so, though being marshal is an odd situation for a man who loves his freedom to be in, he's taking it honorably. "That's the straw I drew, but believe me, I'll never get that drunk again."

The Devil's Lair feels quite a bit different from the other Lou Prophet novel I've read, The Devil Gets His Due. In fact, with its handful of gratuitous sex scenes, I'm going to guess it was originally written for an adult Western series but was rewritten at the last moment. (The marshal angle suggests Longarm, but prolific author Peter Brandvold — he also writes under the pseudonym Frank Leslie — has written for The Trailsman as well, so that is also a possibility.)

Brandvold writes intelligent, action-filled Westerns that don't stop. Plus, any writer who uses words like "surfeit" and "ilk" with confidence in his genre fiction is one I can truly admire. He rarely makes predictable choices (except where genre dictates), which makes his work all the more fascinating. The Devil's Lair has an ending one can read only with awe at its brass, and as an added bonus, the book name-checks Frank Roderus, an influence on (and a supporter of) Brandvold's writing.


David Cranmer said...

He's a very fine writer and at some point I will read this.

Thanks for the review.

Richard Prosch said...

I enjoy Brandvold, but haven't read his Lou Prophet --something I should obviously rectify. Nice review!

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