cover image Robert B. Parker’s Ironhorse

Robert B. Parker’s Ironhorse

Robert Knott. Putnam, $25.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-399-15811-7

Parker wrote 68 mystery and western novels before he died in 2010; now screenwriter Knott continues Parker’s popular Virgil Cole series of gritty westerns featuring Parker’s two signature western characters: lawmen-for-hire Cole and Everett Hitch. Knott, however, cannot match Parker’s sharp style and careful blend of action, suspense, and dialogue, producing instead a melodramatic hayburner with a high body count and low excitement. Following Parker’s Blue-Eyed Devil, Virgil and Everett are now territorial U.S. marshals riding a train through the Indian Territories. When a white outlaw gang holds up a train, bullets fly, bodies drop, and female hostages are taken. The steely-eyed, cold-blooded marshals vow to save everyone and “rid this train of these thieves.” After a drawn-out gun battle, the few surviving robbers escape with the hostages but not what they were really after. Virgil, Everett, a steady town constable, and a deadly Choctaw pursue the gang, leading to a predictable, sappy showdown in an abandoned mining camp. Knott sticks to Parker’s portrayals of Virgil and Everett as hard-boiled, badge-toting gunmen whose simple solution to every problem is to shoot everybody in sight, but the result is a disappointing knockoff of a previously successful western series. Agent: Helen Brann, The Helen Brann Agency. (Jan.)