Bill Riley’s Head

Written by Douglas Hirt
Review by Jeff Westerhoff

During the early 1870s, bounty hunter T. J. Ragland rides into Bend City carrying the head of outlaw Bill Riley. He stops at the small town along the Missouri River to catch a riverboat that will take him to Fort Leavenworth, where he can turn in the head and receive the bounty. He needs the money to impress the father of the woman he wishes to marry. While returning to his hotel from a card game, he is attacked, and the head is stolen. A local marshal, Bethany Bulger, provides help at first in locating the thieves, but with little success. Ragland must soon rely on an undercover Pinkerton detective to help him in the search for the missing head. Soon several murders are discovered around town, and another mystery develops. It is difficult to tell the good guys from the bad guys throughout the novel until the very end. The novel does a masterful job with character development while providing an unusual plot (finding a missing head). An absorbing blend of a good western story and a mystery, this is an enjoyable read that’s hard to put down.