3 out of 4 stars
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Many books and films of the Western genre have similar characteristics. The scenery is often a rugged, open landscape. The characters in these stories also often belong in similar categories. There is usually a sheriff, townsfolk, ranchers, Native Americans, and wild gunfighting cowboys. In the book, Cactus Jumpers by Andrew Burch, we see many of the same characteristics evident in other westerns. Yet, at the same time, it does also manage to have certain unique aspects about it. The story can be classified as C/T/M/H as it has aspects of adventure, crime, and mystery to it.
The main story takes place in a small town, called Emerald, in California. As today, we see that politics and influence have always had a place in the running of a society. We observe the power struggle between the law and the wealthy businessmen. We learn that these power struggles have never really gone away and will always occur in society one way or another. In this story, we are introduced to Marshal Mason Boydette, the towns official lawman on one side; and the wealthy, influential Skip Traeger and Moss Williams on the other.
The citizens of Emerald must choose sides when a young woman is found dead, buried in a deep pool of water. The young woman is found to be an unimportant prostitute. If the Marshal does decide to dig further, he could be upsetting important and influential people in town. Thus, he has a difficult decision to make. There are several other characters who must make the difficult decision of whether to side with the Marshal or not. Among them are the Minister, Emmett Brady, and three newcomers to town.
One of the negative aspects about this book is that the backstories of many of the characters are explored in so much detail. It was also written in a way such that I sometimes got confused as to the present and the past. If those transitions between the past and present were clearer and not all over the place, the story would have been much more understandable. Several times I got lost and could not understand where that particular character fit in, and it was only after I continued reading further on, did the pieces fall into place.
On the other hand, the author does try and create good characters with many attributes. What I did like about the book was that the characters were well rounded. There weren’t simply good or bad guys. Rather, many characters in the story had both good and bad in them. The author also divulges a lot of the thoughts that the character goes through, so we can see how they grow. This allows the characters to be both human and fallible.
I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. Generally, the main story was interesting and in-depth. However, I did have some reservations about the book. The book had quite a number of characters, and it sometimes was a bit difficult to keep track of all their individual stories. The fact that the author delved so deeply into each of the characters backgrounds could be seen as a positive or negative aspect. Some people may find it unnecessary and tiresome, while others may find it interesting. Added to this there were several minor grammatical errors. Nothing too detracting, a few homophones.
I think that this book would appeal to those who enjoy reading books that have crime, mystery, and action. If you enjoy high action scenes with shootouts and enjoy books of the Western genre, this book might be for you.
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