Sunday, September 9, 2012

Review: The Long Shooters by Daniel C. Chamberlain

From beginning to end, The Long Shooters is an incredible five-star read. The dialog got me hooked; the story kept me enthralled. This book so involved me I was genuinely sorry when my journey through its pages came to an end. I have never fancied myself a fan of westerns, but The Long Shooters is much more than a western. It is an intriguing mystery novel set in a western venue at a time during and shortly after the Civil War. It is also a novel that penetrates the thoughts and feelings of highly-skilled assassins of the time – perhaps of any time.

An excerpt posted by Mr. Chamberlain led me to request the book for review. Even in that short posting, the dialog pulled me in. It was so riveting I couldn’t help but wonder if the rest of the book would be that good. It was, and the book is impeccably edited as well. I love to read stories that are put together with such extraordinary care. The story dragged me into the era and kept me involved, almost to the exclusion of everything else. That’s what I hope to find when I read for pleasure, and this book delivered in spades.

In 1877, Shaw, a former Captain in the Union army and accomplished long-range rifleman, is hired to protect a mining claim. He does so with deadly force, killing a would-be claim jumper with a shot from across the valley. But Shaw is more than a hired gun. He is ethical, honorable and ensures his brand of righteous justice is only brought to bear in cases where the law can’t or won’t get involved. Thus it is that Shaw agrees to pursue the killer of Samuel Roark’s only son in 1878.

Samuel descends into deep depression after his son’s murder, and wants only one thing more than his own death – to be the one to kill the person who took his son’s life. As Mr. Chamberlain describes it, “Samuel was at the initial stages of something known as a death run. Not a physical death per se, but certainly an emotional one… A man like that may not commit the physical act of suicide, but he wouldn’t lift a finger to go on living either.”

Like peeling a delicious onion, the story reveals layer after layer of deception as Shaw follows subtle leads to find the man who did the killing … and all others involved as well. It is a masterful tale of suspense, punctuated with an exquisite knowledge of the weaponry and events of the time. The Long Shooters also intertwines a moving love story. In his depression, Samuel pushes his beautiful young wife, Sarah, so far away emotionally as to destroy the love they once shared. Sarah is attracted to Shaw because of his strong an upright character, but repelled by him because of the violence he represents. The dilemmas Sarah faces are as real as the story is fascinating.

Early clues indicate Samuel’s son was killed by another long shooter, a dangerous man named Ballou, and after Ballou kills Samuel in showdown in the mountains west of Denver, Shaw and Sarah are directly in his sights. Ballou is one of the most well-known and feared assassins in the world and the interplay of wits and skill between Shaw and Ballou play out as the story builds to a breathtaking conclusion.

I will not disclose how Sarah, a vibrant young woman locked in a dead marriage, deals with her longings for Shaw, or how the confrontation between Shaw and Ballou ends. I will only say this: you will not expect the outcome; the plot is far too complex. What I can say, without the slightest reservation, is that the characters will move you, the dialog is realistic and you will truly enjoy the intricate way clues are presented, almost subliminally. In my opinion, you will love everything about this book. I certainly did.

Reviewed by James L. Hatch, author of The Substitute

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