"The Big Open"
Stan Lynde has defined himself as an integral part of Montana’s literary-arts landscape over the past 50-plus years. Beginning with his first comic strip, "Rick O’Shay," in 1958, Lynde has entertained readers with illustrations and words depicting the life and landscape of our beautiful state. After writing comic strips for nearly 38 years, Lynde began to produce novels. The Merlin Fanshaw Western mystery series began in 2005 with the Marshal of Medicine Lodge. Lynde has continued to produce a new title in the series nearly every year since.
Now on his eighth Merlin Fanshaw novel, after 2010’s "To Kill a Copper King," Lynde brings us "The Big Open." The story opens with a bang, par for the course when it comes to the Merlin Fanshaw series. Merlin finds himself in Miles City, on orders to meet with his boss, U.S. Marshal Chance Ridgway. During his time there, Merlin assists local law enforcement when a bank robbery transpires late one evening. Merlin shoots and kills one of the suspected robbers and forever changes the course of his own life.
Readers who have long been fans of Merlin’s character as an officer of the law will be surprised at the new turn of events the series takes. Merlin lays down his badge as a peace officer and becomes a civilian again, looking for comfort and solace after taking the life of the young bank robbery suspect. In an effort to be rid of the ghosts that haunt him, he travels far and away to Montana’s scantly populated open-range country. There he finds employment as a cowhand at a local ranch. As Merlin settles into a new routine at the ranch, he does his best to move on from his past and learn how to feel comfortable in his own skin again. However, he soon finds that despite his best efforts to leave the life of the law behind him, evil deeds born of the human heart have a way of permeating even the most peaceful and isolated of places. Rumors abound that there are cattle rustlers on the loose, terrorizing folks trying to make an honest living on the open range. Add to the mix an ambitious and determined local rancher hell bent on owning every ranch and head of cattle and who will stop at nothing to get what he wants.
Merlin finds he must make a choice — turn a blind eye and maintain his quiet station as a civilian or allow the peace officer within him to shine again in order to protect and serve those who are in danger.
"The Big Open" carries on the tradition of Lynde’s crisp, simple style of writing. A master of successfully mixing genres, he writes stories that are a pleasant blend of western, romance, mystery and thriller. Highly recommended for fans of all types of fiction or for those who simply enjoy a well-told story set in the great state of Montana.
Amy Davis is the adult services librarian at Parmly Billings Library.