The Good Thief

Written by Preston Holtry

Early on an April morning in 1917, the tortured body of Franciscan postulate Thomas Whelan lies in the vegetable garden behind his mission. The mission sits on an Indian Reservation in the harsh land north of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Private investigator and former lawman, Morgan Westphal, is visiting his lady love, Arianna Beltrane, at her family ranch near the reservation. He is asked to help the undermanned and inexperienced reservation police.

Westphal soon discovers Thomas Whelan was not who he appeared. Whelan, really jockey Tommy Corcoran, had scrounged for rides on racetracks back east. Corcoran’s last ride was at the great Saratoga raceway on a horse owned by notorious gangster and gambler Arnold Rothstein. That race ended badly. Corcoran fled west, took on a new identity, and hid in the monastery.

Arianne has her own tumultuous past. She shot to death her wealthy philandering husband. Now her ex-mother-in-law in New York wants to meet about an intriguing proposition. Arianne must go, or else her ex-mother-in-law might talk to prosecutors. Arianne insists Westphal come with her to the “family” meeting.

Holtry relies heavily on dialogue and could have fleshed out the somewhat spare historical details. For example, car engines of the time start effortlessly and without cranking, and telephone calls connect without a hitch. But Corcoran and Arianne’s two adventures evolve at a good pace, their hot and complicated romance adding zest. They cross paths with treacherous and interesting characters, from Indian scouts to errand runners for Rothstein. Other bodies pile up on the way to sensible resolutions. Fans of hero Morgan Westphal will enjoy this fourth novel in the series.