★★★★ In Marco Martinez by R. M. Allan, the titular bounty hunter is on the case yet again. A bounty hunter scarred from his memories of Civil War horrors, Martinez is drawn to the wilderness of the open West. His experiences during the war have forced him to construct himself anew from the ground up; though his tactics may seem questionable, he reliably gets the job done. As Martinez racks up capture after capture, he runs into a large cast of characters ranging from a sheriff’s lovely daughter to a Native American warrior—and not without a few heart-to-hearts with his horse—all while in pursuit of Bondelro, a notorious bank robber who isn’t afraid to kill to get what he wants.
Between the dusty sun and the dirty floors of the saloon, Allan is excellent at setting the scene. The author’s facility with description is so strong you can almost taste the whiskey the Irish miners used to enjoy after a hard day’s work, or feel the touch of silken horsehair beneath your hand. Yet while the set dressing is spot-on, the novel does, in certain passages, feel a bit unmoored in time, and it then becomes difficult to place Allan’s characters within a specific time period or region. By no means a condemning flaw, it’s possible that by using a greater amount of location- and time-specific terms to flavor the text, Allan’s meticulously drawn world might be filled to the brim. As it stands, the plot is engrossing and zippy, hitting all of the major genre markers, while avoiding a reliance upon cliche. Marco Martinez is sure to appeal to both new and established fans of Westerns.