The Samaritan’s Pistol by Eric Bishop
Genre: Adult Thriller/Contemporary Western
Publisher: Jolly Fish Press
Release date: August 24 2013
Source: e-ARC from publisher
In a word: Cowboys vs. the mob, an unexpected combination of grit and sweet, complex characters that will tug at your heartstrings, and snappy dialog.
This is the first book I’ve read from publisher Jolly Fish Press, and I was pleasantly surprised. Stepping out of my comfort zone, which is usually horror and science fiction, I was treated to a book that’s very hard to classify. On one hand it’s a story about a rancher who has a run-in with the mafia and tries to steal a bunch of their money. And on the other, it’s a book filled with family values and even some romance. Many of the characters have personal obstacles to overcome, and Bishop smartly makes them work for their happily-ever-afters. The Samaritan’s Pistol had a depth I was not expecting, and combined with some terrifically gruesome shoot-outs, it offers a wide range of readers something unique: a book with a little something for everyone.
Jim Cooper is a modern-day cowboy and rancher who leads tourists on hikes and fishing trips near the Wyoming Rockies. But during one fateful trip, he comes across a man who is tied up and being beaten by three thugs. As he steps in to try to save the man, events spin wildly out of control, and before Jim knows what’s happened, he’s pulled out his gun and killed all three men.
His newly rescued friend, a giant of a black man named Larry, offers Jim a cut of the money he’s stolen from the mob, if only Jim will help him move it to a safe location. And so begins a wild adventure that moves from Wyoming to Las Vegas and back again.
I want to talk about the characters first, because I loved so many of them. Jim is a surprising man who has moments of unexpected violence, but who loves his horse to pieces and would do anything for his mother and his close friends. I found him intriguing and worrisome at the same time. In one scene he shoots three men to death with barely a second thought, and in the next he’s offering advice to a group of boys on a camping trip. Jim’s past as a Desert Storm war veteran is important to the story, and his experiences there color his everyday life.
One of the best things about Jim, however, is the way he’s immersed himself in the Mormon community that surrounds his ranch, which is surprising because Jim isn’t Mormon. He still struggles with a decision he made years ago that relates to his own religious beliefs, and you can tell that he wonders if he made the right choice. Bishop warmly describes the Mormon community and the folks that Jim comes into contact with every day, and his descriptions just made me feel good. Jim’s respect for these people is heart-warming, even as he’s battling his own feelings about religion, and I thought it was a nice touch to add to the story.
Other characters are well done too, including Jim’s cantankerous old ranch hand Brody, another character who’s got more under his hat than you think; a woman named Sally who is dealing with a controlling husband and trying to figure a way out of her unhappy marriage; and Larry, the man Jim rescues who turns out to be a big softy, despite the fact that he’s just stolen almost thirty million dollars from the mafia.
A few things didn’t work quite so well for me. An unexpected romantic attachment for Jim pops up about half way through the story, which I have to admit was a bit jarring. The romance between Jim and Sheila at times felt as though it was from another story altogether, although I did like the Bonnie and Clyde vibe I was getting from them! A few of the plot points seemed far-fetched, particularly the way Jim kept getting away with murder. And some sentences felt awkward and could have used a bit more editing.
But despite these small flaws, I had a blast reading The Samaritan’s Pistol. There’s plenty of action, especially near the end when Jim and Larry try to secretly move the money to Wyoming. The author’s first-hand ranching experiences lend an authenticity to the story that made me feel like I was right there with the characters at the foot of the Rockies. I loved the characters, I loved all their layers, and I loved the unexpected moments of poignancy. If you are looking for a story that defies genre, The Samaritan’s Pistol will be right up your alley.
Many thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy. Come back tomorrow for my stop on The Samaritan’s Pistol Blog Tour!
Watch the book trailer (a touch of graphic violence, be warned!)
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