Peter Grant’s Brings The Lightning was my favorite fiction work of 2016, so I was thrilled to see a sequel come out this year. The first story is one of travelling west, working hard, and persevering through all sorts of adversity. It’s really a testament to the American dream, perfect thematically for a western and the opening of a series.
Rocky Mountain Retribution opens with Walt being somewhat established with his business in Colorado, a small time jump in his life, but a sensible one. I think people can start with this book first no problem if they want to jump right into it, but there’s some character banter about characters from the first book, and I think you’ll care more about side characters like Rose if you read Brings the Lightning first.
This book proved equally as adept, and perhaps from a structural craft perspective is superior to the first. Whereas the first book was about a man making it and working hard, however, this book was much darker in its themes. It was truly about retribution—with an opening scene having Walt get into a battle with horse thieves, and one of his men getting killed in the process. Walt decides to be the arbiter of justice and it sets off a cascade of events of further retribution, this time from big criminal elements in Colorado down to New Mexico.
Walt sets into investigation to stop these thieves from terror, though with a nice mix of his own interests that make his character a lot more rational than standard altruistic investigators in fiction. It’s pretty tense the whole way through, with a stellar pace to the plot as it unfolds and spirals into bigger and bigger situations.
Unlike the first book, we get a lot of villain perspectives in the book, and Grant does a great job of switching between perspectives and making them sound distinct. I liked that the main villain didn’t end up feeling like a mustache twirler, but he was quite rational in most of his actions as well.
It’s brutal. The opening scene establishes this as well. Grant doesn’t mince words going into this and says right out “this is the wild west, and it’s going to be a lot tougher and scarier than the travel over.” It jarred me at first because Brings The Lightning was so uplifting in a number of ways—of which part of it continues with the way Walt treats his men right, something that distinguishes him from the villains and shows his personal code of ethics.
But there is, as mentioned, a lot of brutality. A lot of loss. It probably will appeal to a wider group of people because of that as I could see Rocky Mountain Retribution developed into a show on AMC or HBO easily. It’s hard to get into the points where the book really hits hard without spoiling it, but let’s just say the book goes much further than the “this town ain’t big enough for the both of us” I usually see in westerns… to a full “this territory ain’t big enough for the both of us.”
Western fans won’t be disappointed in this latest effort in the least. Another solid installment by Grant in what I hope will be a long series. We could use more works like this series in modern American literature.