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The town of Sombrero had changed a lot in the five years Boyd Cohoon had been away. Black’s ferry was gone, a bridge built in it’s place over “Mad River.” Main Street was twice as long and the buildings were way too gaudy for Boyd’s taste,. too many people thronging the walks.

Boyd had served five years in Yuma Prison for another man’s crimes, robbery, because of the love for a young woman, Claire Paradine. What had happened was, the pair were out buggy riding when they’d come across her brother lying beside his horse, a bullet in his leg, a mask on his face. Boyd had gotten him onto the buggy, sending Claire away, leading the posse on a chase wearing the mask.

Caught, he’d been tried and sentenced to prison, remaining silent as Claire had promised to wait.The other man in the robbery had been killed by a drummer after he’d shot the driver and the boy’s father, Harry Westerman, a rich land owner, had promised vengeance on Boyd as he was lead away.

While he was in prison, Boyd’s father had been shot in the back on the trail and the killer had gone straight to the Cohoon home, shooting down his older brother when he opened up the door, then burning the house.

Now Boyd had come home.

The Marshall is looking for any excuse to arrest him. Son of the former ferryman, a victim of bullying by Boyd’s older brother when they were kids, he seems to have a hate on for the younger Cohoon. There’s a couple of gunmen that want to kill him. The whole town is waiting to see what he will do about the murderer of his family. Boyd’s uncle believes it to be Westerman. The only one who didn’t wait was Claire. She is engaged to Westerman.

Colonel Paradine, the local banker, offers Boyd ten thousand dollars for his five years sacrifice. Refusing it at first, he finally agrees and leaves while the Paradines stand around shamefaced.

What we have here is a mystery.

While Boyd was in prison, a bandit known as the “General” had begun working in the area. No one knew who he was, presuming him to be a Mexican, his gang comprised of Mexicans and rogue Apache. Wearing a gaudy uniform and a mask, people think there must be someone in town feeding him information about the mine payrolls. The finger is quickly pointed at Boyd, never mind that he’s got the perfect alibi for the robberies themselves.

Another element in our tale is the young woman Boyd meets on the stage ride into town. Nan Montoya has a past of her own and she’s the new singer at one the less savory businesses in town.The pair of them grow closer as they are the new pariahs in town.

The Marshall’s out to get him. That ten thousand looks suspicious just after a mine payroll robbery. Westerman has told him to leave town or he’d kill him. His uncle looks askance at him because he doesn’t seem to care about his father and brother. A young man from Nan’s past shows up wanting her to come home. A couple of attempts on Boyd’s life muddy the waters.

And all Boyd wants to do is rebuild his home and gather the cattle left in the brush of his land, gone wild in five years. Oh, and find his family’s killer.

The last of the Hamilton westerns I’ve posted on. Below are links to the previous posts.

TEXAS FEVER

THE BIG COUNTRY

SMOKY VALLEY

THE TWO-SHOOT GUN

Five westerns and I’ve been asked to rank them. Let’s see. If I had to pick a favorite, it would be close between THE TWO-SHOOT GUN and THE BIG COUNTRY, the former for the several twists that kept turning the story around and the latter because I’ve long been an admirer of the fifties film and soundtrack, although I didn’t read the novel until recently. MAD RIVER would come third, followed by SMOKY VALLEY, with TEXAS FEVER at the end. I liked them all just fine, but this is as good as a list I can come up with right now.

For more fine forgotten books, go to PATTINASE.

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