Tuesday, January 22, 2013

'Ironhorse' by Robert B. Parker and Robert Knott

I'm lucky, I work in a bookstore. Very few new releases slip by me, especially if its from someone whom I've enjoyed reading. I don't know if the universe was playing a joke on me or what but I completely missed this book! I was putting books away on our new release table on Tuesday morning and I just froze. Disbelief turned to shock, shock turned to excitement, excitement turned to reality, and reality turned into a very vocal "WHAT" that cause the customers in the bookstore to look at me like I had lost my damn mind.

I impulse buy books like you wouldn't believe and this one was a no brainier. If the book I was reading at the time ('Hannibal' by Ben Kane) hadn't been so incredibly good I would have stopped reading it and start this one. I'm probably one of the few people who have read Parker only for his Westerns. They are just so incredibly good. The obvious question is "will this one be as good"? In case you don't know, Parker unfortunately passed away and we weren't sure if there would be another Western by him. The gentlemen who co-wrote the screenplay for 'Appaloosa' is the one who does this book.

Now, back to the question of "was this one as good"? The fair thing to say would be yes and no. Yes, because it held my interest and I was so happy to read about Hitch and Cole again. No, because it lacked the magic that Parker had. I fully understand that it's not fair to compare a first time novelist to a honest to God legend. But hey if life was fair I'd be dating Gabrielle Union while living in Australia, driving a Jeep Rubicon to an all you can eat crab boil, before having an all glass four-story library dedicated to me by Zoe Saldana. But since that world doesn't exist (dammit) back to reality...

Much of this story takes place in and around trains and I think that is where it was lost for me. When Hitch and Cole were in their element dealing with bad guys and killing bad guys, this story was good. When I had to head about the trains and how they worked and stuff like that... the story slowed for me. Might be personal preference, might be... but I think I'm pretty good with distinguishing personal preference vs. good/bad story. 'Ironhorse' had a lot of ups and downs that made for some uneven storytelling. The beautiful language banter between Hitch and Cole is very accented in this volume and I enjoyed that as I always do. The human interactions between Cole and... well... anyone is a treat for anybody who loves that in a book. How even just the stare of Virgil Cole is cause enough to give a man the stomach quivers. Or instant loyalty unto death.

In this book our two boys are tasked with escorting two Mexican prisoners back to Mexico. Unfortunately some bad seed, some very bad seed from Virgil's past rears his ugly bloody head. So in their very simplistic way they take care of it. There is a gunfight on a train (no spoilers) that I can only describe as "surgery with a .45”. With anyone else this might seem utterly and pathetically fantastic, with these two you just smile and wish that you could be there to see it first hand. One thing I think that Mr. Knott did very well was the very, very slight romantic tension between Hitch and one of the daughters. He then gives us one hell of a BAM in the last few pages. Actually, the more I think about it I REALLY liked how he did that.

If you've been a fan of this duo since 'Appaloosa' then I think you'll do well to complete this series. But know going in that it won't be exactly like want you got from Mr. Parker. Will you enjoy it? Yes. Will you enjoy it a lot? Maaaaybe. I certainly hope this isn't the last Western from Parker/Knott/and company, and judging by how many 'Spencer' novels have come out since, it probably won't be. And that's a good thing.


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