While this third Rancho Diablo book picks up on loose ends from the first story, as well as carrying on themes from the second book, it should be perfectly accessible to new readers in its own right. (Although, really, at $2.99 a pop, it's not that difficult to catch up on the whole series at this relatively early stage.) That's one of the advantages of an inexpensive series of short ebooks: it's not too intimidating to pick up the back catalog, either in terms of investing time or money.
I'm starting to think of Rancho Diablo in terms of a really good Western TV series: each installment tells a self-contained story, but each one also builds on what came before, adding to the ongoing character development and themes. And while this story focuses on a relatively traditional tale of revenge (hardly a spoiler; it's part of the title), it also fleshes out ranch owner Sam Blaylock's relationship with the town of Shooter's Point, and his nemesis,local entrepreneur and newspaper owner Mitchell McCarthy.
While I had been concerned in earlier books that Sam Blaylock was too perfect a hero, it's clear that the series authors plan on addressing that issue. While the fact that Blaylock and Rancho Diablo attract trouble that more often than not gets resolved with gunplay allows the series to feature the traditional motifs of Western fiction, it doesn't come without a cost. The town is very aware of the high body count coming from Rancho Diablo, and it's not something they approve of at all. I'm really enjoying the fact that the elements that make Rancho Diablo a fun, traditional Western series are also producing ramifications that are being explored in a realistic way.
While Bill "Colby Jackson" Crider writes in a clear, straightforward manner, he still does a great job fleshing out the characters and their emotions, making them feel real. He, and the other writers of the series, are also doing a great job keeping the material all-ages appropriate. Not that today's young readers are looking for an exciting Western ebook series, but if anyone is, it's nice to know there's one out there for them.
My only real complaint, as I write this review, is that I've now read all the Rancho Diablo books published to date, and probably have to wait until the fall until the next one!
Review from A. Kaplan on Amazon!