The Peaceful Valley Crime Wave: A Western Mystery

Written by Bill Pronzini
Review by Jeff Westerhoff

In 1914, Peaceful Valley, Montana, is a calm, quiet town with little reason for Sheriff Monk to make many arrests. Then in October, a cigar store Indian is stolen from the front of the tobacco shop, teenager Charity Axthelm is discovered missing, and a housekeeper is poisoned and becomes seriously ill – a neighbor next door is suspected by the homeowner. The leaders of the town want these crimes solved immediately. The laid-back sheriff moves slowly forward to try and solve these crimes one at a time, although he soon finds some of the townspeople lose faith in his approach.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable story without the usual gun-toting outlaws and gun battles often found in westerns. The pace of the story is slow, but the sheriff meticulously moves forward to solve the crimes. There were never enough clues to solve the crimes myself, until their solution became obvious in the final chapters.  I found the storyline interesting while the author added depth and life to each character. This novel is an absorbing blend of western culture and mystery. The author is a crime fiction award winner, and this book is a fine example of his craft.