“We go where we’re sent. We have names and we stand against that which must be faced.” So says the primary protagonist, United States Marshal John T. Marwood.
Marshal Marwood is sent, or called, to the New Mexico frontier town of Haxan, and he’s already faced with a murder to solve right from the start. This murder-mystery provides the over-arching plot, but while solving the murder, Marwood must also deal with a town that needs some cleaning up, a budding range war, a Navajo war party, and multiple other matters. Sometimes he uses applied violence, sometimes smarts and words. John Marwood is not a one-trick pony, but a well-conceived character, tough, honorable, flawed, willing to do things the hard way, aware of his own strengths and weaknesses, willing to die for the right things, this is Marwood.
Author Kenneth Mark Hoover has created a novel that is part murder-mystery noir, part unblinking, non-romanticized western novel, and a little bit dark fantasy. But don’t think Haxan is all darkness and grit: There are genuinely amusing (but not laugh out loud funny) bits of dialogue and scenes; there are moments of compassion, friendship, love, and honor. Yes, this a hard novel, but it was a hard time and Hoover’s prose and plotting pulls you along like an express train on a long flat straightaway.
I highly recommend this novel, especially if you are a fan of westerns, dark fantasy, and detective-noir.