THE HOLD UP is the seventh entry in the popular RANCHO DIABLO series and is yet another fine example of exactly why the series is so popular. Writing chores under the "Colby Jackson" byline alternate book to book between authors Bill Crider, James Reasoner, and Mel Odom—with Mr. Odom being the one wearing the Jackson hat this time around.
The trick to keeping any good series fresh to have some growth, some change, some evolvement within the recurring cast of characters as well as new characters that wander in and out of the various storylines. Again, all those things are present here as evidence of what makes this series so entertaining.
There has always been a strong bond, usually quickly formed, between Sam Blaylock and his family and the hands who come to work for then on the Rancho Diablo ranch. This is important because there also has always been friction between the townspeople of nearby Shooter's Cross and anyone associated with Blaylock's brand. Much of this is due to jealousy over the success of the ranch and the sawmill connected to it. These hard feelings ("as constant as chiggers in high grass," Marhsal Everett Tolliver muses early on in this book) are stirred at every opportunity by Mitchell McCarthy, owner/editor of the town newspaper, who harbors his own personal grudge against "those barbaric cowboys from Rancho Diablo."
All of this figures into the plot of THE HOLD UP when one of Rancho Diablo's newer hands, Randy Post, is found kneeling beside the dead body of Jessie Holden, a popular saloon girl, in the alley out back of the Wooden Owl. Prior to this, Randy had been seeing Jessie regularly and had convinced himself that she had genuine feelings for him. But tonight he had arrived in town displaying a jealous rage over reports that Jessie had been seeing other men. This was enough to convince everyone who converged in the alley after hearing gunshots that the boy—even though he was found at her side trying to provide aid and comfort—was guilty beyond any doubt of being her killer.
Yet Marshal Tolliver isn't so easily convinced. For starters, there were reports of two gunshots but Randy's gun was only fired once. Who fired the other shot … and why?
From this instantly intriguing start, the rest of this reader-grabbing tale only picks up momentum.
Naturally refusing to believe that their friend and co-worker is guilty of cold-blooded murder, Sam Blaylock and several of his key hands—including Randy's cousin Bob, and Mike Tucker, Sam's quietly deadly best friend since their days together as Army scouts—ride into Shooter's Cross to help resolve the matter. To the surprise of no one more than themselves (since the marshal has previously tended to side with his town when previously caught in the middle of tensions between Shooter's Cross and Rancho Diablo) Tolliver and Sam end up forming an edgy alliance to get to the bottom of who really killed Jessie—and why.
Before they are through, an amazing amount of double-dealing will be revealed, guns will blaze, a merciless slaughter of innocent people will take place, and not one but two attempted bank robberies will have to be thwarted … until the whole shebang culminates in a frantic shoot-out that finally delivers justice but paints the streets of Shooter's Cross bloody red in the process.
Don't miss this one!