Louis L'Amour,
The Sackett Brand
(Bantam, 1965)

This one's a heartbreaker.

In Sackett, William Tell Sackett found and rescued Ange Kerry, a beautiful young woman in a remote Wyoming mountain range, and swiftly fell in love. In Mojave Crossing, she was largely absent, but after Tell's adventures in California we learn she's been visiting family back east, and now she's returning to him.

When The Sackett Brand begins, Ange is dead.

She and Tell, newly married, are scouting for a place to settle in Arizona. Tell rides ahead, and while he's away from the wagon someone takes a shot at him -- very nearly killing him. After a harrowing journey back to the site where he left Ange waiting, Tell finds her -- and their wagon, mules and supplies -- gone.

And then he finds her body. She put up a fight before she died.

The Sackett Brand is a story of revenge, as Tell -- badly wounded though he is -- attempts to find the man who murdered his wife. Although he doesn't know who it was specifically, he quickly learns that it was someone riding the Lazy A brand -- which puts 40 gunmen between him and his target.

Meanwhile, word is spreading throughout the West that a Sackett's in trouble, and Sacketts -- Tyrel and Orrin, Lando and Falcon, Nolan and more -- saddle up to lend a hand.

It leads to a pretty thrilling denouement, although frankly I could have used more. Most of Louis L'Amour's novels are short reads, and this was written years before he started exploring a longer form. Still, I wish he'd devoted a few more pages to the action after the Sackett clan arrived on the scene.

Otherwise, though, this remains a powerful book in the Sackett series, one of my favorites after many years.

book review by
Tom Knapp

1 October 2016

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