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Book Review: Brimstone by Robert B. Parker

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Brimstone is the third book in Robert B. Parker’s Appaloosa Western trilogy. Normally known for his “Easterners,” particularly those starring Spenser, Parker steps into the Old West and successfully claims some of the dusty streets and cow towns as his own. The books don’t read like Louis L’Amour or Larry McMurtry novels, nor do they really spend a lot of time in the hard country where much of the danger comes from the savage land. These books mostly take place in towns where the ideas of law and justice are vague things.

The trilogy revolves around two men, Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch. Virgil and Everett had been friends for years and have become legendary town tamers. Virgil works on self education and maintains himself through rigid iron discipline. Everett trained at West Point as a military officer, then went his own way and tends to accept things as they come.

This friendship is the cornerstone of these books. I love the way it shows up in their conversations and in the way they face down different dangers together. I love tough guy books and these are two of the toughest you’ll find.

The first novel, Appaloosa, was made into a movie starring Ed Harris as Virgil and Viggo Mortensen as Everett. Renee Zellweger stars as Allie French, the conniving woman who winds up getting Virgil all twisted up inside for the first time in his life.

The second book deals with the reconciliation between Virgil and Everett after the events of the first novel. But the third book has them finding Allie working as a prostitute in a small town. Even after freeing her, Virgil doesn’t know what to do with her.

I don’t much care for Allie as a character. She’s too manipulative and shallow to interest a man like Virgil Cole. I didn't understand the attraction in the first book, though I could understand his efforts to save her from herself. However, she’s actually even worse in the third book and much of the weakness she displays is kept off screen in this novel. Virgil is aware of it but doesn’t deal with it, and Parker doesn’t force the reader to acknowledge it until near the end of the book. By that time, Virgil and Everett had more pressing problems.

There was no mystery where the danger comes from in this novel either. But I wished there was more background provided for Brother Percival, and more about his relationship with Pike. I like the addition of Pony Flores to the crew and hope that if Parker continues writing novels about Virgil and Everett that Pony puts in an appearance as well.

There aren’t any real surprises in Brimstone, but Parker keeps the pages turning at a gallop with just enough action and threat. And I’d love to see these novels turned into a trilogy of movies.

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