The king of the paperbacks, Harry Whittington, released “A Trap for Sam Dodge” as part of an ACE double in 1961. It was packaged with Lee Floren's “High Thunder”, but the book was later reprinted by ACE with Whittington's “Valley of Savage Men”. It's another rock-solid western entry from a master of the genre.
The book begins as Sam Dodge returns to the small town of Bent River. Dodge had originally ran for sheriff in the town, opposing his friend Miles Ringo. Ringo eventually won the election and Dodge left town. Now, Dodge has returned for Ringo's funeral, and to find some answers to his mysterious murder.
Dodge learns that Ringo was shot in the chest by an unknown assailant behind the horse corral. Dodge feels that Ringo was smart and deadly fast with a gun. No one could have shot Ringo face to face. There has to be more to the murder than what Marshall Sid Kane explains. Heaping even more intrigue onto the crime is the fact that Kane is now dating Ringo's widow Mae. So soon? Dodge feels that Kane, Judge Wilkes and land baron Kurt Duvall all had a hand in Ringo's murder.
Whittington spins this western entry into the proverbial “whodunit” and why. While there's a great deal of crime mystery in the presentation, the author still injects a surprising amount of action into the narrative. While Dodge discovers the truth, he's forced to outgun Duvall's hired hands while also protecting two Mexican farmer's from Duvall's aggressive land grab.
While firmly entrenched in the “land baron bullies the town” formula, Whittington adds enough surprising elements to make this a delight to read. It's short, fast-paced, engaging and ultimately a one-sit read.
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