From Publishers Weekly
The 1887 massacre of more than 30 Chinese gold miners in a remote area of the Idaho territory provides the real-life foundation for this engrossing look at racial prejudice and the settling of the West, the first novel from Hand (the pen name for William Howarth and Anne Matthews). After police judge Joe Vincent and his 10-year-old daughter, Nell, find a body while fishing, more brutally mutilated bodies turn up along the Snake River. The Sam Yup Company, a Chinese labor exchange, hires Vincent to find the culprits. Lee Loi, an ambitious investigator, and Grace Sundown, a Métis mountain guide who shares a past with Vincent, join the hunt. The three track a murderous crew through remote canyons and towns. The plot soon evolves into an insightful look at how Chinese immigrants and American Indians became the targets of rage and violence. The subsequent capture and trial of the killers illustrate that how the West was won was neither simple nor fair to minorities. (Feb.)
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A fascinating account that's equally effective as mystery, Western history and character study (Las Vegas Review-Journal
), this gripping, complex novel captivated the critics with its moving story, engaging characters, and stark, evocative writing. Building a novel around actual events can be tricky, but these first-time novelists carry it off with aplomb, seamlessly interweaving fact and fiction to fill in the historical gaps. Howarth and Matthews paint a vivid, visceral portrait of the Old West, bringing to life America's enduring struggles with diversity and racial tension. The Oregonian
alone voiced complaints, including an objection to liberties taken with real-life characters. Nonetheless, most critics agreed that "fans of Northwest history, Westerns and mysteries will find much to like in this tale" (Seattle Times