Snake Oil: Too Good to be True
Galloway’s con man, Professor Henry Whiteoak, makes his second appearance in this 19th-century Western. I was a huge fan of Book One (Easy Pickin’s), and Book Two suffers in comparison. In this outing, Whiteoak has moved on from Kansas, site of the first book, with no reference to Lyssa, his ostensible love interest. He’s now in Montana, reunited with a former partner in crime, Corey Maynard. There’s a bounty on both their heads so they must use Whiteoak’s quick wits and Maynard’s way with his fists to stay alive.
Yes, comparisons are odious, but for me, part of the strength of the first book, besides Whiteoak’s rascally character, was the Kansas town and its people. This book moves Whiteoak and Maynard through Montana and feels like more of a series of vignettes with different villains than a single story. Whiteoak’s charm is less in evidence, and his long-windedness is more on display as well as a greater degree of callousness towards those he swindles with his potions. Maynard is a less interesting companion than Lyssa, and the two men are so dissimilar that it’s hard to see why they’re friends. Still, Whiteoak’s bravado means I’ll show up for Book Three.