Dusk Along the Niobrara

Five Star: Cengage. Jun. 2019. 237p. ISBN 9781432858292. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781432858308. M
Brad Montgomery was a 19-year-old ranch hand in 1896 when a stranger named Dunbar rode into Niobrara country in Wyoming. Here, Brad looks back at the short time when the cowpuncher was employed at Lou Foster’s ranch. As the two men worked side by side, riding the area, building shipping pens, and herding the roundup, Dunbar inquired about deaths in the areas, one going back as far as 15 years or so. His questions about the murders of a sheepherder, a horse trader, and a local settler seem to stir up trouble with Borden Crowley’s unfriendly ranch hands. The final compelling confrontation scene between Crowley’s crew and Dunbar’s witnesses is viewed by all the local townspeople. There’s a philosophical bent to Nesbitt’s (Death in Cantera) novel, in which discussions of everything from the land to Oedipus tend to slow the pace, but they are appropriate to the lengthy stretches of time the cowpunchers have when nothing is happening.
VERDICT The frontier mystery fits the Western trope of the stranger who rides into town, cleans it up by defeating the bad guys, and moves on. This atmospheric tale can be shared with fans of Westerns and the movie Shane.
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