With THE COYOTE TRACKER, the latest entry in the Josiah Wolfe series has arrived. This entry is a bit different than the ones preceding it, because it seems author Larry D. Sweazy might have been reading some Erle Stanley Gardner, since the bulk of the story revolves around an upcoming court case. And the city of Austin, Texas, is the central location to the whole plot.
Now, it’s still a Western — just a bit of a variation is all. The story deals with the murder of a prostitute, and the only suspect is a fellow Texas Ranger Scrap Elliot. It’s up to Josiah to clear his friends name, knowing full well that there is no way he could have been the culprit.
Sweazy makes this entry more of a detective story with Wolfe growing even more as a character, especially when he is caught in the middle of a jailbreak without his gun; he’s helpless as prisoners escape and a deputy is killed.
But more importantly, Wolfe discovers what will be a clue which really moves the story along nicely along the background plot of the railroad about to come to town. That’s exactly why the locals want this matter dealt with quickly, especially since the murder victim is what the locals think as a sore spot — something they wish could be left outside of polite conversation.
None of this deters Wolfe, who is looked upon as a murderer with a badge himself by most locals. There are your gun battles and horses to go around, but through the whole book, I was expecting Perry Mason to show up. Well, he doesn’t, but a local lawyer who is from back east does, and yes, there is a very big courtroom scene with the great reveal.
THE COYOTE TRACKER is a great entry in what has become one of the more solid Westerns still coming out. This harkens back to the old writers of the Old West, and even new readers to the series will have no problem picking this up. It’s the Western that Erle Stanley Gardner never wrote. —Bruce Grossman