Once again mixing action and everyday turn-of-the-century cowboy life, Brown (The Long Drift) adds to his reputation as a competent, traditional yarn-spinner in this tale of a good-hearted drifter in love with the boss's wife. Traveling through eastern New Mexico, Concho Smith encounters Judyth Van, mail-order bride of Sid Van, an alcoholic rancher crippled in a riding accident only a few weeks after his marriage. A pretty ex-schoolmarm with frontier grit, Judyth instantly arrests Concho's attention and affection when she hires him to pull the ranch into shape--though neither one knows that it will be up to Concho to save the ranch from the gang of nefarious cattle baron Little Bob Shiner. The plot is saved from banality by twists that reveal Concho's flaws and self-doubts. (How many tough guys throw a punch at a drunken cripple? How many get punched back?) Lively and believable dialogue and a comic sidekick offset a somewhat puritanical (and not entirely credible) treatment of the love triangle in this workmanlike tale. (Mar.) FYI: Devil's Rim is the final volume in the longtime Walker Western series.