Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Silver Alibi

   It's not common in my experience as a reader to come across a cross-genre novel that fully satisfies the conventions of both of the genres it crosses. Usually it will lean toward one genre more strongly than the other. James Reasoner's new novel The Silver Alibi manages to function as a full fledged mystery with clues, suspects, red herrings, and some nice twists and turns while also being a full out Western with plenty of gunplay, brawls, and the like.
  The protagonist, Judge Earl Stark, is a former stagecoach guard who studied law and eventually became a Federal circuit Judge. Stark rides into trouble within the first few pages. On his way to the town of Jackhammer to arbitrate a dispute between rival mining operations, Stark comes across some men trapped in a creek by a deadly crossfire. The Judge wades in with his Winchester and evens the odds. Turns out that the boys in trouble are part of one of the mining companies and Stark uses the fact that they don't know who he is yet to get some inside information about the dispute.
   Before long, Stark realizes that things are complicated and potentially dangerous, and that his job won't be an easy one. Then a murder occurs and things get much worse.
   The whole time I was reading this one I kept thinking that it would make a great movie. The plot is a little gem of  construction with each scene leading logically to the next and providing just the right amount of information to keep the reader guessing as to the true identity of the killer. But as  I said it doesn't scrimp on the action either.
   The judge is a great character and Reasoner surrounds him with an interesting cast. There are characters to like and ones to hate and there's even a little romantic subplot. Like I said, it would make a great film. I'm just now meeting Judge Earl Stark but I see that he's appeared in several other books and short stories. I'll be tracking them down. Highly recommended.

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