In this sequel to The Contract Surgeon
, the winner of the 2000 Western Heritage Award for Fiction, O'Brien resumes his fictionalized biography of renowned physician Valentine T. McGillycuddy. Singled out for his experience among the Sioux—McGillycuddy attended Crazy Horse on his deathbed—the 30-year-old doctor accepts a surprise appointment to replace the government's corrupt Indian agent at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where the imperious, unruly warrior chief Red Cloud is held. Arriving in South Dakota in 1879 with his wife, Fanny, the new Indian agent slowly gains the confidence of the Sioux by ensuring that Washington makes good on its commitment of rations, introducing the Sioux to an agrarian lifestyle and establishing an Indian police force. Gradually, however, McGillycuddy's good work is undermined by opposition in Washington, and he watches Fanny's physical condition deteriorate, disappointing their hopes for children. Replaced in 1887, McGillycuddy becomes president of the School of Mines in Rapid City, S.Dak. Without stewardship, the Sioux return to warlike ways and he is summoned too late to prevent the massacre at Wounded Knee. Readers will clamor for a further installment of this well-written, absorbing and deeply affecting story. Agent, Brandt & Hochman Literary Agency. (Oct.)
Great word of mouth should help build a larger readership for O'Brien. The author lives in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and his Western expertise and passion are evident.