By Lyle Brandt
Berkley, 2007

Jack Slade pulled up roots a long time ago to take life one day at a time, risking his livelihood, and his neck, at gambling tables across the West. A disappointment to his family, he’s been estranged from them for years. Then he receives word of his brother’s death – under mysterious circumstances – in Lawton, Oklahoma.

It’s been four years since Jack saw Jim, who had firmly planted his roots to become a successful rancher. In addition to acres of land and herds of cattle, Jim left behind a fiancée who has been fending off offers on her property – and cattle rustlers.

The mysterious circumstances behind Jim’s death are starting to become clear. And when fate pins a badge of Jack, he finds himself walking the line between justice and revenge…

This is the first in a series that ran to eleven books. Lyle Brandt is a pseudonym used by Michael Newton.

As expected there is plenty of background information as to why Slade left his family and headed out West. We also discover that Jack and Jim are twins. The reactions of some of the inhabitants of Lawton and some outlaws are excellent as they believe they are seeing a ghost when Slade arrives in town. A lot of the tale explores Slade’s thoughts as he reflects on the past and his future and quite often goes over the same ground, which got a little repetitive. 

Slade’s need to find and punish Jim’s killers sees him at odds with the marshal, Harmon Ford, who needs evidence before he can arrest anyone. Once Slade becomes a lawman himself, he also has to follow rules which restrict how he can deal out his own brand of justice. These aren’t the only problems Slade has to deal with, there’s his growing attraction to his dead brother’s fiancée, Faith Connover.

Full of interesting characters, and a twisting plot, the book moves along at a steady pace with bursts of well described violence. The ending is satisfactory and leaves you wondering what the future holds for the survivors, something I’m hoping to find out soon as I don’t think it will be long before I read the second book in the series.

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