Fatal Elixer

William DeAndrea, Author
William DeAndrea, Author Walker & Company $22.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-8027-3289-7
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DeAndrea's second installment of the Lobo Blacke/Quinn Booker series (after Written in Fire) is an absorbing and playful ride through life in the Wyoming Territory. Dime-novelist Quinn Booker is now working for ex-lawman Lobo Blacke, who purchased a newspaper in the small town of Le Four after he was paralyzed in an ambush. Paul Muller, whom Blacke sent to prison, has escaped and may be headed to Le Four to take revenge on Blacke and to see his wife and child. Blacke thinks Muller might also be coming to Le Four to check up on Lucius Jenkins, a wealthy rancher who was once Blacke's crime-fighting partner, but whom Blacke believes is the brains behind Muller's brilliant robberies. Meanwhile, Dr. Herkimer and his traveling medicine show arrive in town. Dozens of people drop dead and others, including the sheriff, fall sick after taking Herkimer's elixir. When it turns out that only a few bottles of Herkimer's elixir are poisoned, Blacke and Booker hunt for a killer among plenty of suspects, including a man whose skin was tinged permanently blue by an earlier charlatan's concoction. Before it's over, Booker must face a lynch mob and the notorious Muller, who serves, roughly, as the model for the hero in his novels. With ample wit and fluent command of the western idiom, DeAndrea gracefully folds one complication into another for this ride into the Old West of bad men, ranchers, schoolmarms and prostitutes. This is one of the last books DeAndrea wrote before his death last year. (Apr.)
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