|06:23 pm - Slocum and the Witch of Westlake|
Premise: John Slocum, an essentially honorable man, but an inveterate wanderer who has an eye for the ladies, lives on the fringes of the law and finds himself caught up in adventures in the old west, usually once or twice a month.
Story: Slocum, working temporarily for a rancher, in the process of tracking down rustlers who have stolen cattle and horses from his employer, discovers that this incursion is only the latest outgrowth of a lang running feud between his employer and a neighboring rancher. He subsequently learns that the neighbor has resorted to hiring rustlers as payback for Slocum's employer hiring a local woman, a reputed witch, to curse his ranch. When Slocum encourages his employer to meet with the neighbor, in the nearby town of Westlake, with the local sheriff acting as mediator, Slocum finds himself thrown into jail. While there, he encounters Minh, the eponymous "Witch of Westlake". Subsequently discovering that his employer was complicit in Slocum's imprisonment, and that the local sheriff is clandestinely offering a bounty for someone to kill Minh, Slocum and Minh decide to collaborate to create the appearance of fulfilling the desires of both ranchers, and of the sheriff, in order to raise enough of a stake to move on to another town.
- As with the other Slocum novels I've read, Slocum is an appealing character: essentially honorable, dubious of authority, defender of those who are being set upon -- but not above looking out for his personal interests at the same time.
- The action sequences have good pacing and are told in a clear enough way that you can follow what is going on. That is, admittedly, not the kind of thing that most people are aware of, if its done right, but the kind of thing that is, all too frequently, done poorly.
- The character of Minh has a pleasing ambiguity about her: she isn't entirely a heroine, but neither is she, entirely, a villain, either.
- Although a good story, its not exactly a page turner: there isn't a lot of narrative momentum.
- Besides Slocum, Minh, and "Mack", one of the ranchhands, the characters are little more than stereotypes
- I had difficulty buying that Slocum would forgive Minh when she maniputated him into a particular situation, in order to set herself up in a new business in the new town to which they both relocate at the end of the story.
Assessment: Taken as a whole, this book was a fun read. The major characters are appealling and its entertaining to see how they address their problems and work out solutions, both individually, and together.