"Robert B. Parker's Revelation" (G.P. Putnam's Sons), by Robert Knott
The late Robert B. Parker made a career — a very successful, almost 40-year one — out of a series of flawed-hero protagonists: Spenser, Sunny Randall and Jesse Stone among them. They had at one point or another strayed from the good-guy path, but they were all good guys. Their common denominators were a nagging conscience and ties to modern-day Boston.
Parker launched another series in 2005 with the lesser-known Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch, U.S. marshals who watch over the New Mexico territory in the 1880s. In the latest installment of the series, "Revelation," now with Parker's characters in the capable hands of Robert Knott, Cole and Hitch are outright do-gooders.
But they aren't the stars of this new book; they play second fiddle to the captivating Augustus Noble Driggs. He's fascinating because he's so bad, but there are moments when your fingers are crossed that he'll be redeemed and get one of these prolific series-book deals for himself.
It's not meant to be.
The ride one takes to find that out, however, is worthwhile.
Driggs speaks in flowery prose of a generation gone by, a refreshing change from the text and Twitter shorthand we've all gotten used to reading. He is among a group of prisoners that escapes from the remote Cibola prison. It's outside of Cole and Hitch's jurisdiction, the increasingly cosmopolitan town of Appaloosa boasting a population of 3,000, but they just can't resist saving the day.
As the mastermind, Driggs counts on the marshals going one way to chase the others and he swoops in to take their place as the local charmer with a vague aristocratic air about him and an undeniable way with the ladies.
He almost gets away with it, too. But while you want to cheer for Cole and Hitch, who have some poignant moments on their journey meeting the interesting characters of the era, including a female first-time business owner, a rough-around-the-edges miner and a white student of medicine who interacts for the first time with a black child, it's Driggs himself who does his own undoing.