Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer

THE BOOK OF MURDOCK by Loren Estleman

I’ve been reading Loren Estleman’s books for years, and I always enjoy settling in with a new story about his iconic characters, Detroit PI Amos Walker or US Deputy Marshal Page Murdock. Estleman is one of those writers that effortlessly flits back and forth between tough guy detective fiction and Western fiction. He also does some wonderful purely historical driven stories based on real people and real events.

His latest Page Murdock novel is almost a self-serving pastiche of a narrow niche in Western fiction: the gun-toting Biblical preacher. This character has been seen in a number of novels and movies, and oral history of the Old West is peppered with legends about this kind of man. Of course, back in those days everyone in the West was someone else before they became who they were. That was one of the chief reasons people headed West.

In this novel, though, Page’s boss Judge Harlan A. Blackthorne assigns the US deputy to travel to Texas to bring in a gang of masked robbers that have been labeled the “Blue Bandannas.” Page, and the reader, don’t buy the judge’s reasoning that he would rather deal with the gang down in Texas than wait till they reach Montana, which would be at the other end of a long trail drive.

I’ll admit, this conceit stretched credulity for me. I just wasn’t a believer. Thankfully Blackthorne has reasons beneath the surface that come to light. But the reader is treated to a heck of a journey before getting to see that.

The book is divided into parts, and that slows the action a bit. I was anxious to get into the conflict between Page and the outlaws. I wanted the smell of gunsmoke and the threat of certain death.

However, Page has to first undergo an intensive training session with a defrocked priest that turns out to be one of the most interesting characters in the book. Estleman has obviously spent time around men of the cloth or done a lot of research on the subject. Several bits of what would be considered throwaway lines were great entertainment and information. I’d hoped Page would bump into the character again, but that’s just not going to happen.

Events take an interesting twist down in Texas as well. He crosses paths with Colleen Bower, an old acquaintance from bedrooms and across pistols, that he’s learned to respect and maybe fear.

The action in this one is slow, and when it comes at the end, it’s over in almost a rush of gunplay. Everything gets sorted out satisfactorily. The thing that really held my attention throughout this novel is the smart and witty dialogue. Page can hold his own with the judge, a man of the cloth, and the hard-bitten Texas Ranger who knows he’s undercover.

I wished there had been more to the church business, wished I could have seen more of Page dealing with his parishioners, but he did have his hands full with his assignment. I’m looking forward to the next entry in the series.


2 Responses to “THE BOOK OF MURDOCK by Loren Estleman”

  1. I too enjoyn Estleman, although, I’ve noticed a distinct lack of action in his latest books. They are still good readiing, but without the violent punch of his earlier works.

  2. I was reading this book while on the tolit after eating tacos and beans well while squeezing that poop out I read and read and read and then wipet my ass with the book

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