Branded (A Joe Noose Western)

Written by Eric Red
Review by Jeff Westerhoff

It’s 1888, and the interim sheriff of Victor, Idaho, Joe Noose, receives surprise visitors. His good friend, marshal Bess Sugarland of Jackson Hole, accompanied by marshal Emmett Ford, are on the trail of a vicious killer. They tell Noose that 25 people have been found butchered, leaving a trail of bodies through Idaho into Wyoming. Noose, known for his tracking skills, is hired to help find the murderer before he kills again. This madman leaves his signature, an upside-down “Q,” branded upon the dead bodies. Joe Noose remembers 21 years ago when he was 13. He was similarly branded on his chest by a ranch owner after he and three other young boys attempted to steal his cattle. Determined to stop this killer and find the man who may have branded him, Noose joins the small posse.

Branded is the third book in this series. I have read them all, and Joe Noose is one of my favorite Western characters. Red writes like a screenwriter, providing action sequences and cliffhangers throughout the novel. He knows the reader will become immersed in the story, which is difficult to put down. It’s fast-paced and engaging from the first page to the last. Also, all the characters are well-formed and credible. I am anxious to read the next book.