The fourth book in the 'Last Mountain Man' series, "Revenge of the Mountain Man", centers on that age old formula - avenging the death or injury of a spouse. Over the course of the first three books, Smoke's reputation as quick draw gun-fighter has caught up with him numerous times. Every fast draw, gambler and adrenaline junkie is gunning for Smoke and wants the gold ticket to Hollywood that comes with a fresh corpse.
Johnstone's narrative introduces a few unwanted guests at Smoke's Sugarloaf ranch. It's evident they want the fame and fortune from killing the famed gun-slinger (which oddly isn't a mountain man at all). Unfortunately, Smoke is away selling cattle and his wife Sally takes the violent hit. She's shot three times but the doctors patch her up - with boiling water and rags (important ingredients in western culture!). Smoke sends her back home to her family in the East, but not before learning she is pregnant with the couple's first child.
Smoke discovers that the killers are from a desert Babylon in the Southwest. Using a bit of detective work, Smoke goes into the barbaric town playing a fool - he dresses like an eccentric artist and takes numerous beatings from the book's bully and outlaw extras. But, dressing like a fool and sacrificing a few ribs allows him the opportunity to scout out the town's cronies. He soon teams up with a US Marshall and the two devise a detailed plan to tree the criminals while liberating hundreds of prisoners held by the town kingpin.
The author provides another traditional western tale but takes a less common approach by weakening the hero purposefully. The fist fights are inevitable, which just leads to gun battles and a lot of anticipation knowing Smoke will turn the tables and fight back - eventually. The addition of a few allies helped flesh the book out a bit. Plus, the series becomes a little more dynamic by introducing Sally's wealthy family and some of her backstory.
Overall, the action mirrors events that happened in prior books - Smoke arrives in town, scouts it, attacks everything and then leaves. Plus, the amount of bar fights and their outcomes are easily predictable. Almost every Johnstone scene in a bar is just an excuse for a gunfight or brawl. Why can't a man just get snozzled in the suds without a bunch of grief?
"Revenge of the Mountain Man" is just another good western, take it or leave it. You can buy a copy of the book HERE.
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