Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The High Rocks, by Loren Estleman

Loren Estleman
ISBN: 0-812-53566-9
Book #07-017

After three years of harsh winters, the people of Staghorn, Montana, have their work cut out for them in recovering from the depradations of severe weather. As bad as they have it, however, that Bear Anderson has it worse. Bear lives alone in the heights of the Bitterroot Mountains, where he works as a trapper when he's not busy hunting down and scalping Flathead Indians in revenge for their massacre of his family. Unfortunately, Bear's quest for vengeance has created a political impasse: the US government wants to negotiate a peace treaty, but the Indians won't cooperate until Bear is brought to justice.

Enter Page Murdock, US Deputy and childhood friend of one Bear Anderson. Murdock agrees to try to bring Bear down from the mountain, but it's going to take a lot of skill and even more luck. There's a trio of bounty hunters trying to beat Murdock up the mountain, and the Flatheads have decided to take matters into their own hands and bring the big man down themselves.

Loren Estleman has written a cunningly convoluted story that twists and turns like the narrow passages in the mountains he writes about. Murdock is a likeable protagonist, and Estleman makes Bear sympathetic and scary at the same time. As in the best caper yarns, the upper hand changes frequently, and Estleman keeps the action coming relentlessly. THE HIGH ROCKS is a hard-charging story in which the protagonist faces danger from every direction: the bounty hunters, their prey, the Indians, his former friend, and a pack of ravening wolves that shadow him on the trail. Readers will want to read more about Page Murdock.

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