Sunday, January 25, 2009

Breenibooks Review

This was a really nice review that was recently posted of The Assassin:

"The genre of Westerns seems to be slowly riding off into the sunset. Westerns had their heyday during the mid twentieth century when Louis Lamour’s novels were bestsellers, and everyone watched soon to be classic shows like Gunsmoke and The Rifleman. John Wayne also rained supreme at the box office. Unfortunately, few Westerns appear on bookshelves today. Personally, I enjoy a good Western. That’s the main reason I wanted to read Rye James’s novel The Assassin. It is a great addition an old genre.

The title refers to protagonist Matt Beck’s profession. He is a professional gunslinger. Interestingly, he always kills his victims in self-defense. Beck has his own code for living; it’s his way of coping with his unusual career. The reader’s first glimpse of Beck’s cold nature occurs in the opening scene of the novel when he deals with one of his victims. The man begs for his life, but killing him is just part of the job for Beck. Such a cold man might seem like an unsympathetic protagonist, but Beck is utterly fascinating.

There is an element of mystery in The Assassin. When Beck rides into Galena, Arizona, his reason is unclear. It is a rainy night, so he could simply be seeking shelter. Of course, that is not the reason for Beck’s stop in Galena. He has a job in town. That means someone has to die. The question that hangs throughout most of the novel surrounds his victim. Beck doesn’t reveal the identity of his target until near the end of the novel. James does a great job of building the suspense around Beck’s target. There are several possible victims, and Beck never tips his hand. The most important part of his job is the mind game that comes before the gunfight.

The plot is actually deceptively simple. Beck has a job to complete in Galena. Someone has paid him to kill someone, but no one knows the intended victim’s identity. Beck doesn’t even know who paid him to do this job until the end of the novel. The identity of Beck’s employer provides another element of suspense. In fact, this provides one of the best plot twists in the entire novel. As Beck lingers in Galena, the residents wonder and worry about his intended target. An interesting subplot develops when the mayor hires another gunfighter to kill Beck. The resolution of the situation is reminiscent of an episode of Maverick. The final shootout is thrilling and action-packed. Even though the plot is fairly simple, James has done an excellent job of building and maintaining suspense throughout the novel.

The characters in The Assassin are intriguing. Matt Beck is much more than a gunfighter; he is a very complex character. The potential victims are equally intriguing. Everyone seems to have something to hide in Galena, particularly among the town’s elite. Galena is a town where corruption suns rampant, so it is hard to guess who is most likely to be the target. When Beck does finally reveal his target, it doesn’t come as a shock. The reason for the job is much more surprising.

The Assassin feels like an old-fashioned Western. It has a solid plot and fascinating characters. Rye James is clearly a fan of the classic Westerns. In The Assassin, he tips his hat to this great American genre."

Reviewed by Cynthia Murphy

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