cover image Chenneville: A Novel of Murder, Loss, and Vengeance

Chenneville: A Novel of Murder, Loss, and Vengeance

Paulette Jiles. Morrow, $30 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-325268-4

Jiles (News of the World) captivates with another reliably rugged western odyssey. Wounded in the head in the final months of the Civil War, Union Army lieutenant John Chenneville survives and, after recovering in a field hospital, is eventually sent home to St. Louis to recuperate. There, John is informed that his sister, her husband, and their infant child were all murdered by a deputy sheriff named Albert Dodd. After a year of rehabilitation, John decides he is strong enough to go after Dodd, who is on his way to Texas. Crossing into Indian Territory from Fort Smith, Ark., John meets Aubrey Robertson, an English telegrapher who gives him shelter during a snowstorm. But when Robertson is murdered, possibly by Dodd, John comes under suspicion, with a dogged U.S. Marshal named Giddens on his trail. As he enters Union-occupied Texas, John receives help from telegraph operator Victoria Reavis, who keeps him apprised of both Dodd’s and Giddens’s movements as all three men head for a fateful showdown in San Antonio. As usual, Jiles impresses with vital characterizations, well-honed dialogue, and a granular depiction of the Old West. She also steeps readers in the lore of 19th-century technologies such as the telegraph, and dramatizes how it transformed society. This tale has true grit. (Sept.)