three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
12-Sept-Oct-2004
user_rating: 
0
A-MoonRedPoniesBurke leaves the familiar Louisiana bayous of his Dave Robicheaux novels to visit Missoula, Montana. There, Billy Bob Holland, a former assistant U.S. Attorney and Texas Ranger, has opened a criminal law practice. Johnny American Horse, a charismatic Native American leader and environmentalist whose followers have criminal records, hires him to keep the authorities at bay. To complicate matters, Holland is also dealing with the return of his nemesis, psychotic killer Wyatt Dixon. When F.B.I. agents come to town to retrieve the missing files—and hitmen arrive to take out American Horse—this half-western/half-crime novel kicks into high gear.
Simon & Schuster. 336 pages. $24.95.
ISBN: 0743245431

Denver Post 4 of 5 Stars
"Burke carefully weaves Dixon in and out of the story, never letting the reader know when or how or if this dangerous man will shake loose his chemical and religious restraints and destroy Holland and his family. That makes In the Moon of the Red Ponies a midnight oil-burning page-turner." Ed Will

Oregonian 4 of 5 Stars
"Burke, as usual, delivers a fast-paced story line, snappy dialogue, lush landscapes and complex characters, not the least of whom is Billy Bob [Holland], tormented like Burke’s other series hero, Dave Robicheaux, with a dark side." Peggy McMullen

Globe and Mail 4 of 5 Stars
"James Lee Burke is among the tiny group of crime authors who really know how to use the location of a novel to inform character and influence plot. … You can smell the sagebrush, feel the wind, catch the sound of a bird cry." Margaret Cannon

Plain Dealer 3.5 of 5 Stars
"In lesser hands, Ponies could be a straightforward good guys-against-the-psycho novel. But James Lee Burke isn’t a straightforward plotter, and readers will have to be patient as he sets the various (perhaps too many) subplots in motion." Michele Ross

New York Times 2 of 5 Stars
"… Johnny [American Horse] is so idealistically contrived (think of him as Johnny American Symbol) and Billy Bob so gaga about his visionary pronouncements (‘I think one day the bison will run free again’) that it’s a relief when the bad guys pull out their weapons and hijack the plot." Marilyn Stasio

Critical Summary

Burke sets his fourth Billy Bob Holland crime drama on the edge of the Bitterroot Mountains in Montana. This fast-paced mystery occasionally slows to a tumbleweed pace so the author can comment on the treatment of Native Americans, corporate misuses of the environment, and governmental intrusion into privacy. But when his intriguing characters demand equal attention, Burke crafts action sequences so realistic you can practically smell the gunpowder and sweat. Some critics cite gratuitous plotting and uneven characters. But with the reappearance of homicidal rodeo clown Wyatt Dixon (who buried the hero’s wife alive in the third installment, Bitteroot), most agree that Ponies is the best yet in the series.

First in the Series

AS-CimarronRoseCimarron Rose | James Lee Burke (1997): In Deaf Smith Texas, attorney and ex-Texas Ranger Billy Bob Holland defends his estranged illegitimate son who is accused of rape and murder.