This fifth entry in the popular Rancho Diablo series maintains the high standards set by previous titles and continues the promise of more to come. As most everyone knows, these books are written in a sort of round-robin style by Bill Crider, James Reasoner, and Mel Odum. This time out it is the always-dependable Reasoner taking another turn and, as already indicated, he does not disappoint.
The arrival in Shooters Cross of a beautiful blonde young woman leading a beautiful (albeit in quite a different way) black stallion draws a lot of attention right off the bat, none more intense than from young Duane Beatty, a hired hand at Sam Blaylock's Rancho Diablo ranch, who happens to be in town that day getting supplies. And, as luck would have it, the opportunity for the young cowpoke to do more than just gaze longingly after the lovely stranger soon presents itself when the blonde beauty is accosted by three hard cases in the local livery and Duane is on hand to intervene.
From there the momentum of the story picks up steadily as it turns out that the blonde — whose name is Lizzie Payton — has plenty of trouble on her lovely tail and getting involved with her may not turn out to be so lucky (unless you count the bad kind) for Duane after all. But Duane, having ridden with Sam Blaylock for a lot of years and having been in on the building of Rancho Diablo from the beginning, is no stranger to trouble. Same for Sam and the other Rancho Diablo riders. And once it is clear how Lizzie has been wronged and how much danger she is in, Duane and the others are ready to back her all the way.
There's action aplenty, a handful of subplots complete with a twist or two, a colorful cast of characters including the kind of villain you love to hate and his assortment of hench-men, a taste of sweet romance, and an exciting horse race featuring Lizzie's "Satan", the dark horse of the title … all presented in Reasoner's easy, assured writing style.
Lots to like. Leaves you sorry to reach the last page and anxious for the next installment of the Rancho Diablo series.
Persevere --- WD