In Book One in The Angus Series (Ten Shoes Up), Angus came down off his mountain refuge, became a U.S. Marshal and rejoined civilization. That was in 1881. In Book Two, almost two years have passed when Angus gets another assignment. He’s back in the saddle, riding the Rio Chama south to its confluence with the Rio Grande in New Mexico. The Valles Caldera is a pressure cooker novel set in New Mexico’s Jemez Mountains. For millions of years the caldera escaped human notice. In the 1700s it sustained generations of Indians, Hispanics, and Anglos. It also became a perfect hideout for Mendoza Mendoza and his men. They hope to ambush Marshal Angus and his posse. But Angus and No Mas won’t be stopped. “The unmistakable boom of a 12-guage shotgun came from up above, at the rim of the caldera. Then, muzzle fire and sharp cracks from our right, up the steep trail, and close. The shotgun went silent, but the high ping and clink of rifle fire rained down on us from everywhere. I heard what I thought was a horse hitting hard earth. The shooters kept firing. I could hear horses crashing through heavy underbrush, men cussing, and return fire flaring up. Sliding my hand down the reins, I tightened up on No Mas, drew my Buntline, and put the spurs to him.” Then, all hell broke loose.
He’s a US Marshall that used to work undercover. Now he’s being asked to wear his star and visit a prisoner in New Mexico to see if he can find out where he hid the stolen payroll. Unfortunately, he runs into a few problems on the way…
Mr. Stuart writes a good western with a lot of facts about the history of the area and the people that populate it. He does in an amusing way. The Sheriff talks to his horse and we get a history lesson along the way. While the story flows well, I found myself getting impatient while reading. You know there’s a gunfight coming and it doesn’t happen until the end of the book.
While the Sheriff is making his way back to Colorado for his orders, a river bank gives way and his horse gets injured. He leaves the horse at the blacksmith and takes the train to Denver. There he gets the order to attempt to get information out of the man on death row.
His replacement horse was real cheap because he wouldn’t let anybody ride him. Angus just takes it slow and they become partners in not too much time. Angus saves a woman from abuse and gets his name on a Mexican’s list for death and branding. They take pride to a fault. Angus also meets the new stable owner and it’s a female. A good looking female, who is also a gunsmith. Angus can’t believe how pretty she looks in a dress, since she hardly ever wears one.
He accomplishes what he set out to do and he tries his darnedest to stay out of the way of the Mexican but when the Mexican tries to kill his woman, it’s time for blood…
The West was no place for sissies.