In the closing days of the Civil War, Confederate guerrilla James Dunn, haunted by a battlefield tragedy, deserts the cause and heads west with Crosseye Reeves, a former mountain man who was a sharecropper on the plantation owned by James's father. James is on a mission that he hopes will redeem him, a quest to find the former fiancé of his late brother. He catches up to her in Denver City, but that's just the start of an adventure that carries the three of them deep into the dangerous heart of Mexico in search of three bells cast of solid gold . . . the Bells of El Diablo, so called because they're supposed to be cursed and will bring death – or worse – to anyone who seeks them.
This is the stuff of which epic novels are made, and Brandvold does a great job with it. James and Crosseye are fine characters, as is the beautiful Vienna McAllister, the catalyst for their perilous journey into Mexico. As usual, there's plenty of well-written action as the protagonists encounter outlaws, corrupt Rurales, and savage Yaqui and Apache Indians. Also as usual, Brandvold paints the settings with an uncanny vividness that puts the reader right in the middle of that action. The plot barrels along to a nasty but very effective twist at the end that left me eager to read more about these characters.
You won't find a gritty, hardboiled action Western that's better than THE BELLS OF EL DIABLO. I thoroughly enjoyed it and give it a high recommendation.