4 out of 4 stars
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Matt Hargreaves, a sharpshooter deputy with an addiction to alcohol, makes a mistake while hungover on duty, leading to the death of a young girl and her father. Matt’s duty partner, Norbert, convinces him to burn the evidence and flee the scene. Despite burning down the house, their crime is discovered by Corporal Justin Augustus, a spectral being bound to this earth to redeem his soul by bringing justice to other wrongdoers. Can Matt escape judgment long enough to bring down the so-called Phantom of Witch’s Tree, avenge the deaths of his friends, and redeem himself?
The characters from the many intertwining storylines in Mark Lunde’s The Phantom of Witch’s Tree are some of the best I have ever read. They are relatable, have depth and development, and the perspective changes between chapters allow the reader to understand their thought processes. It was sometimes difficult to tell who was a “good guy” and who was a “bad guy” throughout the story, which I think is an example of the author’s skill in writing a good crime novel.
One of the most memorable characters, Jody Simms, is one of the few that is identifiable as a pure antagonist. The constant chaos surrounding him, created by his impulsive but calculating personality, was beautifully written, showing both his deplorable behavior and his charisma that allowed him to not be held accountable for his actions. He serves as the perfect foil for the flawed hero in Matt Hargreaves.
My only critique is this book could use a bit more editing. A handful of errors made it through the proofreading process, though most do not interrupt the flow of the story, nor would they be noticed by readers who are not actively looking for them. This is the only small blemish on otherwise perfect work.
Even though there are a few errors, I could not give this book anything less than a perfect score of 4 out of 4 stars. The complex characters and storyline, laced with the perfect amount of mystery and creepy occurrences, make for an entertaining read that I hope will be enjoyed by many.
As a historical fiction piece told from the perspectives of predominantly white male characters, there is racist, sexist, and otherwise bigoted language and ideology that is accurate for the time and political climate. Accompanied by crude language and moderate levels of sexually explicit content, including sexual violence, this book is best suited for mature readers. The 'Wild West' setting and mysterious storyline will appeal to lovers of historical fiction and crime novels, and even has a touch of supernatural occurrences for fantasy enthusiasts.
The Phantom of Witch's Tree
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