FAITH AND A FAST GUN is another adventure of hard-luck range detective Joshua Dillard, who’s in Del Rio to visit the grave of his late wife when he finds himself drawn into a clash between the daughter of a murdered rancher and the cattle baron responsible for the man’s death. Faith Hartnett’s brother Dick won a herd of longhorns from ruthless rancher Lyte Grumman, who rules Del Rio with an iron fist, then left with the cattle on a trail drive to Montana. Faith wants to head north, too, and rejoin her brother, but Grumman wants to prevent that. Even though it’s not Joshua’s trouble, he decides to help Faith get away from Grumman and be reunited with her brother.
Well-written though it is, with good characters and some nice hardboiled action, this is a pretty standard beginning for a Western novel. But old pro Chap O’Keefe (actually Keith Chapman, as many of you already know) is just luring the reader in before springing some great twists in the plot. Those twists don’t come fast and furious, as they do in some books. The sense that something isn’t quite right builds at a more deliberate but very effective pace, picking up steam as the storyline moves from Texas to Montana and winds up in a stunning climax that’s more like something out of Greek tragedy than a traditional Western.
This is a fine novel, with O’Keefe working solidly in the tradition of noirish Western authors such as Lewis B. Patten, H.A. De Rosso, and Dean Owen. Joshua Dillard is a very appealing, tough but flawed hero, and the other characters are drawn vividly as well. If you’re a Western fan and haven’t tried a Chap O’Keefe novel yet, you really should.