March McPhee’s husband, Kermit, dies in the first sentence, killed by a falling rock in his Montana gold mine. She then loses her baby in a fire set in her cabin, part of a conspiracy of unscrupulous men wanting her mine. The law is no help: Constable Roach protects his relatives involved in the scheme. Yet March isn’t lacking friends; saloon owner Tip Leary and assayer Wittgenstein give her food and shelter. Slippery lawyer Hermes Apollo agrees to help, but for a steep personal price. March is determined to fight for her property, via committing sabotage at the mine and a lawsuit. Yet her efforts grind to a halt when a corrupt judge in Helena traps her into being sent to an insane asylum.
I enjoyed this Western’s strong female protagonist. March has more grit than I could ever summon up in such a daunting situation. But the ending was totally disappointing. In the climax, the main villain has an unmotivated change of heart, unsupported by plot developments. Maybe that kind of about-face in a person happens in real life, but it’s not very satisfying in fiction. Up to the last chapter, I was a fan of the book.