Page Murdock is a deputy U.S. Marshall in Montana in 1884. He has done a lot of things over the years but not once has he gone undercover as a preacher. That is about to change as Judge Harlan A. Blackthorne wants him to do just that and to do it in Texas Panhandle town of Owen. By going undercover as a man of the cloth it should be easier for Murdock to track down a gang of bandits operating in the Texas panhandle who might eventually make their way Montana if left unchecked. The reason is flimsy at best and Murdock knows there has to be more at stake than just the vague possibility that the bandits might expand their operations all the way up to Montana. Still, one does not say no to Judge Blackthorne.
After a two week crash course in religion, Murdock is sent to Texas as Brother Bernard Sebastian of the Church of Evangelical Truth. A crash course in religion and wearing a clerical collar does not necessarily make him a good fit for an undercover job as a preacher. It does not change his natural inclinations or his responses when confronted. What it does do to Murdock is to make him reconsider the world and his role in it. That may not last too long thanks to be increasingly bold actions of the bandits, a shady woman from his past, and the plain fact that his notoriety that has followed him all the way to Texas. A place and a people he hates on every level.
Murdock is a caustic character and one that frequently makes comments about others in highly entertaining fashion. He does not pull his verbal punches and so readers are frequently entertained with laugh out loud moments as Murdock tells folks in public and in private exactly what he thinks. Not to mention the occasional zings in internal character dialogue. Humor is just as much a part of things here, as is the mystery of the bandits, a failed romance, and the meaning of god and faith, among other story elements. Â Murdock is just one of many real and interesting characters in this 271 page western novel. The result is a very good read from multi award winning writer Loren P. Estleman.
The Book of Murdock
Loren D. Estleman
A Tom Doherty Book (Forge)
Material supplied by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System.
Kevin R. Tipple Â© 2010