"James Lee Burke tells a story in a style all his own, in language that's alive, electric. He's a master at setting mood, laying in atmosphere, all with quirky dialogue that's a delight." -- Elmore Leonard
In James Lee Burke's last novel featuring Billy Bob Holland, Bitterroot, the former Texas Ranger left his home state to help a friend threatened by the most dangerous sociopath Billy Bob had ever faced. After vanquishing a truly iniquitous collection of violent individuals, Billy moved his family to west Montana and hung out a shingle for his law practice. But in In the Moon of Red Ponies, he discovers that jail cells have revolving doors and that the government he had sworn to serve may have become his enemy.
His first client in Missoula is Johnny American Horse, a young activist for land preservation and the rights of Native Americans. Johnny is charged with the murder of two mysterious men -- who seem to have recently tried to kill Johnny themselves, or at least scare him off his political causes. As Billy Bob investigates, he discovers a web of intrigue surrounding the case and its players: Johnny's girlfriend, Amber Finley, as reckless as she is defiant -- and the daughter of one of Montana's U.S. senators; Darrel McComb, a Missoula police detective who is obsessed with Amber; and Seth Masterson, an enigmatic government agent whose presence in town makes Billy Bob wonder why Washington has become so concerned with an obscure murder case on the fringes of the Bitterroot Mountains.
As complications mount and the dead bodies multiply, Billy Bob is drawn closer to the truth behind Johnny American Horse's arrest -- and discovers a greater danger to himself and to his whole family. How Billy Bob strikes back at evil and protects his kin is the masterful triumph of In the Moon of Red Ponies.
Beautifully written, with an intriguing plot and characters whose conflicts seem as real as life itself, this novel shows James Lee Burke again in the top form that has made him a critical favorite and a national bestseller.
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Simon & Schuster
December 31, 2003
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Excerpt from In the Moon of Red Ponies by James Lee Burke
My law office was located on the old courthouse square of Missoula, Montana, not far from the two or three blocks of low-end bars and hotels that front the railyards, where occasionally Johnny American Horse ended up on a Sunday morning, sleeping in a doorway, shivering in the cold.
The city police liked Johnny and always treated him with a gentleness and sense of fraternity that is not easily earned from cops. He had been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for bravery in Operation Desert Storm, and some cops said Johnny's claims that he suffered Gulf War syndrome were probably true and that he was less drunk than sick from a wartime chemical inhalation.
More accurately, Johnny was a strange man who didn't fit easily into categories. He lived on the Flathead Reservation in the Jocko Valley, although his name came from the Lakota Sioux, and his relatives told me he was a descendant of Crazy Horse, the shaman and chief strategist for Red Cloud, who actually defeated the United States Army and shut down the Bozeman Trail in Red Cloud's War of 1868. I don't know whether or not Johnny experienced mystical visions as his ancestor supposedly did, but I had no doubt he heard voices, since he often smiled during the middle of a conversation and asked people to repeat themselves, explaining nonchalantly that other people were talking too loudly, although no one else was in the room.