Review of Robert B. Parker’s Blackjack by Robert Knott
By Tim Chamberlain
Knott has obviously become even more comfortable with marshals Everett Hitch and Virgil Cole in his fourth installment in the series, and he’s showing that as Appaloosa grows, so does the trouble that comes to town.
The novel starts with the incident that pulls in Hitch and Cole–a man is shot in front of the luxurious new casino that’s being built–but the mystery leads all the way back to Colorado.
The shooting that begins our adventure leaves a newcomer, Boston Bill Black, on the run along with his two gun hands. Black is a dashing raconteur with a reputation for being at ease with both gambling and women. But, as our heroes give chase, they begin to understand that the seemingly simple shooting they’re investigating is just one thread in a complicated series of events leading back to a dead woman in Denver.
As the town is growing, so are the types of trouble that they have to deal with–including big city lawmen. It’s a lot of fun watching Hitch and Cole deal with the “Denver contingent” that has come to town with very clear ideas about what they want to see happen to Boston Bill Black. It’s a classic big city/small town clash, and our men from Appaloosa are more than up for the challenge.
The cast of characters we’re getting to meet is expanding along with the town–we get to know a few of the deputies better, along with several key townspeople such as Appaloosa’s two lawyers. We spend several chapters in a series of courtroom scenes that, if simple by our TV courtroom-drama standards of today, are entertaining, both dramatic and comical at turns.
Another surprise that adds to the story is the introduction of a member of Virgil’s family. Virgil has never really been forthcoming about any of his family, so it’s quite a shock when a family member shows up. It’s another sign that Knott is making these characters his own and is willing to tell stories that help us understand how Virgil got to where he is today.
We’ve also got a new love interest for Hitch, the pretty bookkeeper for the new casino, the conveniently-named Daphne Angel. It seems like something that could work out for once for Hitch, but you’ll have to finish the book to see how it all plays out.
Fans of the series will not be disappointed. Blackjack is full of the terse but meaningful conversations Hitch and Cole are known for, and the action is both tense and realistic, though there isn’t as much gunplay as in some of the previous novels in the series.
Knott, as always, gives us a mystery that is hard to unravel, but actually has a relatively simple explanation. The growth of Appaloosa gives him the opportunity to explore new ways to send Hitch and Cole on adventures–it’s always interesting to see what he’ll take on next.
Tim Chamberlain is a contributor to KAZI Book Review. He recently interviewed Robert Knott and it airs Sunday at 12:30 p.m. CST on KAZI 88.7 FM.