Downriver

Written by Richard S. Wheeler
Review by Steve Lewis

Although I’ve enjoyed many of Wheeler’s books about the American West, this is the first of his Barnaby Skye adventures that I’ve read, the 12th in the series. My error.

In appearance, Skye is a comic figure, an ill-kempt ruffian with ham-like fists, a barrel-shaped man, a deserter from the British Navy and a Rocky Mountain trapper par excellence. He’s also an honest man in a world of shady dealings, a man who, as this novel begins, finds his world turned upside down, with the market for beaver fur having evaporated overnight. The year is 1838, and with the good times over, gaining a position as a post trader in his Crow wife Victoria’s native land means a 2000-mile journey down the Missouri to St. Louis. Not an easy trip, and there are many obstacles. There are rivals for the position, and Barnaby Skye is not a man of politics, no matter the occasion.

After a slow reflective beginning, the novel explodes into nearly non-stop action, and then moves more quietly into the not totally unexpected finale. Skye’s simpler (homespun) nature prevails, but you’ll have to read the novel yourself to fully understand what that means. Highly recommended.