The Lights of Cimarrón
“[T]his sequel to The Big Empty offers several days of literary entertainment. There’s plenty of action and the main characters are extremely likable.”
A few months ago, Tommy Stallings was a drifter hired as deputy to the sheriff of Cimarrón in Colfax County. Now Nathan Averill has retired and 21-year-old Tommy’s the new sheriff. At first, it isn’t so bad. The position comes with a home for himself and his bride, Mollie, one of the teachers at the local school, and everything is peaceful enough.
Then things change.
The notorious White Cap gang from San Miguel County begins attacking local ranchers. Swooping in without warning, they cold-bloodedly massacre everyone and drive off the stock, hiding them in a secret locale in one of the nearby canyons before driving them north to sell to the mining camps.
“If the White Caps had decided to expand their operation north, it looked like I might have to get my hands dirty.”
Tommy rides to Las Vegas, where the White Caps originate, to get what information and help he can from the sheriff there. Sheriff Little believes saloon owner Felipe Alvarado is the leader of the gang. After meeting him, Tommy does, also.
“My first take was that he was a mighty scary gentleman. He reminded of that bird that kills rattlesnakes. They have no expression in their eyes. They’re only interested in killing. That’s what I observed in Felipe Alvarado’s eyes.”
Before Tommy can do any more investigating, however, he’s notified that the sheriff’s office is being moved to Springer, the county seat, and the sheriff has to go along with it. Not wanting to leave her teaching position, and fearing she’ll be left destitute if something happens to Tommy, Mollie refuses to go.
“‘Nothing’s going to happen to me, Mollie.’ As soon as the words left my mouth, I realized how empty they were. I was pretty good at being a lawman but mostly I was alive because I was lucky. Here I was asking the woman I loved to gamble her future on my luck holding out.”
Now, Tommy’s living in Springer, riding back to see his wife whenever he can.
As if that isn’t bad enough, Tommy’s cousin, Rusty, arrives with a request Tommy can’t ignore. Tommy’s needed back in Texas to help his aunt and uncle with a family problem. Since they took him in when his parents were killed, he can’t say no, but how will Mollie react to that?
The final obstacle is perhaps the worst. Tommy is accused of being in cahoots with the White Caps, of accepting bribes to let the rustlers get away.
Now he’s cooling his heels in jail, and it’s up to former sheriff and old friend Nathan Averill and new deputy Cousin Rusty to prove the sheriff innocent before the White Caps strike again.
Told from Tommy’s point of -view, The Lights of Cimarrón is a lively adventure involving a novice sheriff in the New Mexico Territory of 1886. Though there are some brutal killings described and a couple of shoot-outs, these are related in a fairly non-gory way, as befits Tommy’s natural reticence toward violence and his relative lack of experience. Characters and their backgrounds are described at length, and even minor ones are given an unusual amount of attention to detail.
The juxtaposition of Tommy’s account with that of the outlaws as they fight among themselves furthers the story during those time when the young sheriff is out of the action and unable to continue his narration. Several characters from other of Mr. Jones’ books are mentioned or make short appearances, thus tying this story to others in his Jake Delaney series as well as to the previous novel in this current series.
Revealing Tommy’s youth and inexperience, the author has Tommy do some inner searching, as he questions whether he made the right choice in becoming a law man, and sets the tone for whatever is to come:
“This was the way things had been and the way they would always be. There’s evil in the world. We could waste a lot of time trying to figure out why or we could just get on to the business of taking care of the problem. Or we could allow the evil ones to have their way without being challenged. I knew what my decision was.”
Though not necessarily a seriously heavy read, this sequel to The Big Empty offers several days of literary entertainment. There’s plenty of action and the main characters are extremely likable. A third novel would definitely appear to be in the making, as Tommy heads to Texas with his cousin. The Western fan will find himself looking forward to that story as well.