The Contractor

Written by James C. Work
Review by Jeff Westerhoff

In 1868, young Charlie Madalone is murdered in cold blood by Kane Kelly, contractor for the railroad out of Omaha, Nebraska. After Kelly flees the territory, Detective N.K. Boswell of the Rocky Mountain Detective Agency is hired by the boy’s family to find and arrest Kelly and bring him to trial. Meanwhile, a young reporter is assigned to travel west and follow the Union Pacific Railroad, writing stories about the construction of the new railroad as it moves westward. He discovers the story of Charlie’s murder and decides to meet Detective Boswell and report on Kelly’s arrest. Boswell soon learns that Kelly has brothers who will stop at nothing to prevent their brother coming to trial.

The author’s writings present vivid images of the West after the Civil War. His knowledge of railroad terminology and western settings during this period are well researched. His characterizations, especially of Detective Boswell, are clearly defined and well done. I enjoyed this fast-paced short novel and recommend it to western fans.