A request for help sends Detective John Henry Cole to Deadwood, the wildest gold mining town in Dakota Territory’s Black Hills in 1876. It seems that Lydia Winslow, the proprietor of a female escort service, has seen three of her girls die since opening business in Deadwood. The first two were thought accidental, but the third was clearly murder. Cole also leans that Winslow has placed an ad in the newspapers, offering a reward to whoever can solve the three murders.
In Blood Storm Detective Cole learns that every gunslinger and bounty hunter west of the Mississippi is on the way to Deadwood. A couple have already had unfriendly brushes with him. Cole must separate who is friend and foe, even before he reaches Deadwood on the Black Hills Stage. Once there, he is aided by Martha Canary, a rough-spoken, hard-drinking woman better known as Calamity Jane. He also learns that Lydia Winslow suspects that the murderer is Doc Holliday, later of the OK Corral fame.
Blood Storm, a quick-moving, tightly-knit tale, is the first in a series of books about John Henry Cole. The people of Deadwood are familiar in Old West fiction – perhaps so well-known that aficionados know exactly when events took place there. Brooks didn’t provide the year for Blood Storm’s events until nearly the book was nearly 2/3 over, so I was kept guessing. Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading about Detective Cole and his world, and so will any fan of Old West fiction.