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CK Crigger

REVIEW: Black Crossing by CK Crigger

REVIEW: Black Crossing by CK Crigger

“A woman’s revenge and a man’s honor meet on a collision course… Isaac Gilpatrick witnesses the killing of old Marshall Blodgett, and when his mother Ione is threatened with death–or worse–he is intimidated into remaining silent. But the guilt he carries wears at Isaac’s nerves until he can bear it no longer and vows to put the information into the new marshal’s hands. Unfortunately, Marshal TJ Osgood arrives in town too late. He finds Isaac silenced for good after a crooked judge ordered him hanged. Now, with an under-aged deputy and a hound dog as his only allies, Osgood must sort out the truth, protect the bereaved Ione Gilpatrick, and bring a rough bunch of backwoods timber thieves to justice. That is, if Ione doesn’t beat him to it…”

BlackCrossingDear Ms. Crigger,

Your Westerns remind me of the gritty style of 1970s movie westerns where the bad guys didn’t always wear black hats and the good guys were often frayed around the edges. Anti-heroes, I think they were called and Marshal TJ OSgood is a great example of one. The story is really more focused on Osgood and his arc than Ione. She changes a bit, is willing to trust men despite her miserable husband and the villains who killed Isaac but it’s mainly TJ Osgood learning that he’s a better man than he thought and that he’s still got a good lawman in him.

Osgood a man who feels he’s weak but who is really stronger than he thinks. He knows he’s got demons – hell the man who hired him knows Osgood has issues, ones he’s still fighting after they almost licked him. But he’s also got a strong sense of right and wrong and is passionate about the law. Something that those who counted on his weakness didn’t realize. He’s also faced with a strong woman determined to get revenge for her murdered son and at times I get the impression Osgood isn’t sure which side is causing him more problems!

Ione might look scrawny but she’s rawhide tough. As with Osgood, you don’t load us down with backstory which means nothing or current angsting. I can’t see any of your characters wallowing in angst. They do what needs doing and keep going. Ione has obviously had a hard life but no one hears her complaining. When her son is killed, the villains don’t know what they’ve unleashed – the power of a mother seeking vengeance and not afraid of doing what must be done to see to it.

Osgood first has to prove himself to himself and then to the town and then to Ione and then to the villains who misjudge him almost to the end. I enjoyed watching him rise to the occasion and outthinking his opponents. Brains almost didn’t beat brawn but he’s a tough old coot and not above fighting as dirty as those who have no honor and laugh at those who do.

Ione lets her temper and anger spur her into danger, not that it wouldn’t have found her soon anyway, but she senses the danger, acts to avoid it and when it kicks down her door, she still thinks then continues to fight. When she’s the one who takes revenge on one who helped murder her son and the man who would have helped to eliminate her – and an interesting “true to the period” way it was too – I cheered. When a character’s been done that wrong, I have little patience with forgive and forget. A steady trigger finger works just fine for me.

I love the dog and love the dog’s actions. I sense that he’s going to be a figure in keeping the peace in Black Crossing for some years to come. Bennie is a dear too. He’s young, he needs a little more seasoning to grow into the lawman I think he could be but with Osgood to bring him up, he’ll do just fine.

I like the individuals of Black Crossing and how, even if they’re only on stage for a short time like the stage driver, the postman, the general store keeper and the old cusses at the bar, they stand out as people and not just a clump herd of secondary/tertiary cutouts. But why are Western town doctors always drunk?

Osgood is a good lawman. He doesn’t rush to judgment, he checks his facts, he looks into the situation from all angles and refuses to believe the worst until he sees the evidence. But then he does act and he does what he says he’ll do. He proves to Black Crossing, the Coeur d’Alene people and most of all Ione that he’s a man to be trusted at his word. He also takes care of his horse. I like that he’s a bit beat up and has seen a thing or two. I think he and Ione will still strike sparks off each other in their later years but they’ll be pleasant sparks as well as feisty ones.

~Jayne

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| Amberquill |

REVIEW:  Liar’s Trail by CK Crigger

REVIEW: Liar’s Trail by CK Crigger

Dear Ms Crigger,

crigger-liarstrail.jpgAfter I read your book “The Prince’s Cousin,” I thought it more like a fantasy with romance than a true fantasy romance book and I feel the same way (though now speaking of Westerns) about this one. And as with that book, I feel that men would probably enjoy this book as well since it’s not loaded with “gushy stuff.” I’ve taken the liberty to rephrase this book description posted at Amber Quill Press slightly to try and avoid spoilers.

Young Gincy Tate’s father is murdered before he can fulfill a contract to supply the Army with remounts. In order to pay his debts and save the ranch, she must make the sale in his place. Afraid the lien-holder, whom she suspects of being the murderer, will foreclose before June 7, 1883, she tells no one Morris Tate is dead. Instead, she says he is here, there, or elsewhere.

Gincy hires two cowboys to help trail the herd to Fort Spokane. One is an unknown entity, but Sawyer Kennett hires on because he has decided Gincy is the woman for him. With an old Indian, who is her shirttail relative, the group battles storm, stampede and sabotage to win their way to the fort and sell the herd. Then Gincy must make it home in time to beat the foreclosure and confront her father’s murderer–"but only if Sawyer is the man she prays he is.

This is a time when honor was more in style, when more people believed a man’s word was his bond and unfortunately also when the small landholders out west had to fight the big sharks for a piece of the pie. I appreciate that you gave Morris Tate flaws (stubborness, a taste for the fancy girls in town and wetting his whistle at one of the town saloons) in addition to his love for his daughter and his determination to see his debts paid. He wasn’t in the book for long but his decency shows for far longer in how his daughter acts and thinks.

Though Gincy does has moments when I want to smack her — she and Thomas know that Blau wants the ranch more than the money so it ought to be an easy step from there to start out the drive expecting the worst and trying to be prepared but instead they always seem to be reacting instead doing proactive protection of the horse strings. I can understand that they have to be willing to try and trust Fitch at first — they have no choice as they need him to pull the third string — but Gincy trusts him long after I would have stopped. But then maybe that’s just my cynical 21st century self. I do think that she and the grandparents actually do very well dealing with Morris Tate’s death and managing to hide it for as long as they do.

It’s kind of fun to have Sawyer chasing after Gincy rather than the usual other way around romance plots. And as with Morris Tate, you make Sawyer a 19 C man. He’s not too sure of Gincy heading the drive and longs for the peace of mind he’d get from actually talking to her father. He’s also disturbed that the woman he loves appears to be involved in something that feels a little shady to him and vastly relieved when he finally discovers the truth.

It’s obvious you know your way around horses and horse drives and have a fondness for the outdoors. I like the way Thomas and Martha are portrayed — not belittling nor fawning. In addition, Gincy tries to stick up for her Indian relatives and the local tribes in general but has the wisdom to see when further talk would only raise more trouble.

Readers who like cattle drive plots, might like this one. It takes the heroine far longer to figure out who’s her enemy than seems reasonable (but she is only 19 and has never had the weight of handling a drive before) however I liked her determination. “Liar’s Trail” was a 2004 Eppie finalist for Best Western and after reading it, I can see why. B-

~Jayne

available at Amber Quill Press or Fictionwise