Journey to Riverbend

Written by Henry McLaughlin
Review by Nancy J. Attwell

Sam Carstairs, founder of the town of Riverbend, has been kidnapped. Although many of the townsfolk actively dislike Sam, the sheriff has no difficulty forming a posse of volunteers eager to head out into the wilderness to rescue him. Two strangers, Michael Archer, a preacher who has come to Riverbend bearing a message for Sam, and Jeremiah Turner, a gunslinger hired to protect the stagecoach, also join the search. As the violence escalates, Michael grows increasingly fearful that the darkness within his own soul may be unleashed. Back in town, beautiful Rachel Stone struggles to come to terms with her feelings for Michael, and surly Adam Carstairs, one of Sam’s sons, takes advantage of the absence of the lawmakers to wreak some havoc of his own.

Set in 1878, Journey to Riverbend is a Western adventure spiced with a hefty dose of the Bible and a touch of romance. Short punchy chapters at the beginning of the novel introduce us to multiple characters and their colorful pasts. The setting is never clearly identified but, based on the length of the journey from San Francisco to Riverbend, both California and Nevada would be reasonable guesses. An assortment of scoundrels highlight the theme that sin destroys but Christ heals. Readers who like the “pray, breathe, and shoot” message will thoroughly enjoy this book, but those who do not may feel betrayed by the explicit violence which erupts as the story nears its conclusion.