4 stars out of 5
Despite being a huge fan of the late Robert B. Parker's work - I've read all the Spenser and Jesse Stone books - I've never read any of his series featuring Marshal Virgil Cole and Deputy Marshal Everett Hitch. When a friend happened to mention this one, the second written by actor, writer and producer Robert Knott after Parker's death (Ironhorse was his first) - I was surprised that the books even existed. But it didn't take me long to find a copy and give it a whirl.
Never having read any of Parker's Cole and Hitch novels, I can't say whether or not Knott does a good imitation. But knowing Parker's style, I'm betting they're pretty close. Set in the Old West, this one from the start reminded me of a cross between a Zane Grey character and Parker's Jesse Stone, with saddles and six-guns interspersed with "Nope," "Yup" and "Sure."
The book opens as the two relatively uneducated lawmen return a notorious outlaw to San Cristobal to stand trial. Before he can be arraigned, a bank robbery happens that requires investigation by the pair. The man who supposedly did the deed is a bank employee and town resident who is later found after being beaten almost to a pulp and his beautiful wife kidnapped. It's then discovered he's not who he's been claiming to be - and in fact, he's got ties to that outlaw they just brought in. What's more, the outlaw is the only one who knows who kidnapped the wife (who just happens to be the daughter of a St. Louis millionaire) and where Cole and Hitch need to go to track the culprit and his gang down.
I won't say this is anywhere near the most engrossing novel I've ever read, but if you like cowboys who speak mostly in monosyllables and lots of horsing around, it's pretty darned good reading.
Robert B. Parker's Bull River by Robert Knott (Putnam Adult, January 2014); 353 pp.