Ranger Ballard finds two charred bodies in a burned-out ramshackle house on the Texas Panhandle. The Foley brother and sister lived in that house with John Paul, a young hired hand, now missing along with one of the Foley horses. Ballard, helped by tracker Elkhart Truth (“I can track a fish through water”), vows to find John Paul.
John Paul has indeed fled the Foley carnage and, after losing their horse, aims to steal the first horse he stumbles on in a pen by a shack in the wilderness. Old man and former outlaw, Einer Fish, owns that horse and has taken that shack as his own. Einer thwarts would-be horse thief John Paul and forms an alliance with him. Einer has his own quest: to find the only woman he ever truly loved, decades and many miles before.
Brooks gives his main characters a deep humanity. Each is driven to fear and trust, to join up and go it alone, to kill and hold back, and most of all to find the loves of their lives. Brooks’s metaphors (“The wind and rain and heat and winter cold had scarred the land like an old man’s face in a losing knife fight”) enthrall the reader.
Stolen Horses is as much a story of love gained and lost, of men and women as hard has as the land, but now and again softened by warm rain, as it is a rousing tale of rough justice in the old West.