Review of Robert B. Parker’s The Bridge by Robert Knott
The third installment of the Cole and Hitch series by Knott is his best so far, and it shows that he’s making the series his own.
Lovers of a fast-moving western yarn will be pleased with Robert Knott’s latest effort–Marshall Virgil Cole and his deputy (and our narrator) Everett Hitch are busy in Appaloosa after a quiet few months.
The action centers around Cole and Hitch’s investigation into the destruction of a nearly-completed bridge, one that would have crossed the nearby Rio Blanco River and changed the way anyone moved through the area. People are dead as a result, and Cole and Hitch realize that their brief time of quiet is over.
At the same time as this news is coming to light, a traveling troupe of entertainers makes its way into Appaloosa and riles up the whole town, especially Cole’s longtime paramour Allie French. She is taken with the idea of Appaloosa making a good impression on the troupe, and she is quite taken with the head of troupe, Beauregard Beauchamp, and his wife Nell.
These two disparate stories don’t seem like they would work together at first. The story of Cole and Hitch’s investigation into the bridge is pure detective work done in a classic western style, while the troupe’s arrival is nearly all comic relief. However, Knott is able to tie the stories together in such a way that it not only makes sense, but it’s hard to imagine the stories separately.
Knott also introduces a bit of a supernatural element in this book, a departure from earlier installments. While I won’t get into spoilers here, it involves the troupe and a love interest for Hitch, and it helps keep the novel from becoming merely a western procedural. Again, I was a bit surprised that this worked, but Knott was able to keep it believable because he has come to own the Cole and Hitch characters and is obviously getting more and more comfortable with taking them in new directions.
As with the other installments in this series, THE BRIDGE is a quick read with a plot that moves briskly. In his third go as a stand-in for Parker in this series, it is quickly apparent how well Knott knows his inherited characters. He also has an obvious love for research–he has a good eye for authentic detail and the schemes he dreams up for Cole and Hitch to solve feel very plausible–not always a simple task when attempting to come up with 19th century crimes.