I’m not a fan of western novels; the closest I’ve come is the Tony Hillerman mystery novels, which are more contemporary mysteries set in the West rather than “western novels.” I backed into the Sam Keaton mysteries by Sigmund Brouwer from the mystery genre side of his stories.
Evening Star, the first in the Sam Keaton mysteries, is a western novel I truly enjoyed.
It’s the 1870s in the Wyoming Territory. Sam Keaton leaves a saloon for the stable, to check on his horses. Sam is something of a drifter, never staying anywhere for very long and often operating on both sides of the law, at least what law might exist. In an alley, he sees a man kicking what Sam will come to call “an irksome Injun,” and Sam’s life instantly changes. Within seconds, the bully s dead from a gunshot wound.
Sam soon finds himself in jail, with a friendly sheriff and a not-so-friendly deputy sheriff. And he starts receiving messages, via the “irksome Injun,” explaining how to escape. And soon Sam finds himself involved with missing Army gold, the Sioux tribe, no one being what they appear to be, and more than one pursuer, including a bounty hunter – one who’s looking for Sam. For Sam has a past, and it’s a past that is catching up with him. He’s struggling with that past, and he’s struggling with the faith in God that’s beginning to take him by the heart.
Brouwer had published nearly 30 novels in several categories – western, general fiction, historical fiction, young readers, and children’s stories. There are four novels in the Sam Keaton series: Evening Star, Silver Moon, Thunder Voice, and Sun Dance. His novel Thief of Glory (2014) was named Book of the Year by the American Christy Awards.
Evening Star is a compelling story, and a compelling mystery, undergirded by what must be extensive research into the history of Native American tribes, the settlement of the West by pioneers, and the conflict that provoked.