Ever since The Virginian was published in 1903, the character contrast of the cowboy and the schoolmarm have been a popular and effective "western" plot formula. Ditto for male and female or husband and wife partnership in the mystery genre. Well, this this novel has both and even some romance and humor thrown in. The book should definitely cast a wide readership net! It's Wyoming, 1870 and young, Texas cowboy Monday Malone has journeyed north looking for work. Circumstance throws him and a young, eastern prospective school teacher, Katherine Shaw, together with veteran lawman Taggert. Unfortunately, along the trail to Warbonnet, Taggert is picked off by a long range assassin. Somebody didn't want the newly appointed town marshal of Warbonnet to be sworn in. Monday and Kate concoct the deception of having Monday impersonate the dead marshal so they can investigate and discover the killer, his motive, and whoever hired him. Since Monday has never been a lawdog nor Kate a schoolmarm before, they can be considered greenhorns.
The Author populates the bustling and growing fictitious town of Warbonnet with a varied assortment of inhabitants. As with the history of the real frontier, colorful local characters have always been an attractive attribute of westerns since James Fenimore Cooper and Bret Harte. Readers will also be attentive to the budding romance between Monday and Kate and relish the refreshing, humorous diversions from the the obligatory fisticuffs and gunplay. Here's an example: [landlady] " 'Its about Buxton and his friends. They've been hanging around my washline..." '[Monday] ' "Have they been chinking rocks or using slingshots to dirty some of your laundry?" ' [landlady] ' "No, its not that...They just stand and look. And they usually look at Miss Shaw's garments. Especially her underthings. I don't think that's right--or healthy." ' Monday chuckled. ' "I don't know what law they're breaking, Ma'am." ' He grinned. [landlady] ' "Can't you talk to them? You're acting like it's just one of the games boys play." '
This entertaining debut novel successfully combines "traditional" western motifs with a gutsy guy & saucy gal" detection team. Peaked by such endearing main and supportive characters, readers can't help but wonder whats next in store for both Monday and Kate and the town. Well, no need to wait. Painted Woman, the second "Warbonnet mystery" is already out. 307 pages. Ages 14 and up
Recommended by Robert L. Hicks, Arkansas City High School Librarian