This book is one of those quintessential Western genre books that helped kind of set the tone of what we know about them now. It’s not the first, as the Westerns we know began before the “West” was the “West” and it’s not even the earliest, clearest example either, as Owen Wister’s The Virginian came out about ten years earlier.
But it was widely popular, set up and/or explored numerous familiar tropes, and presented all of it in a clear, concise voice.
The story here involves a cattle ranch in Utah. The daughter of a rancher now dead finds herself facing down a group of rustlers on one side and corrupt Mormon church leaders on the other. We’ll soon find out that they’re not so different from one another.
She ends up getting help from a former bandit/rustler named Lassiter. As she does this, one of her ranch hands with whom she has a kind of chaste almost romance with ends up shooting one of the rustlers, finding out that this rustler is in fact a woman(!) and spends the bulk of the novel nursing her back to health and falling in love with her.
As with a lot of American books this one is plenty violent and completely chaste. In addition, it goes on and on about the evils of organized Mormonism, which also happens in the Arthur Conan Doyle novel A Study in Scarlet, and we get a bunch of shootouts, horse races, sage brush, and all kinds of other familiar stuff. It’s kind of a silly book at times, but it’s also better than a lot of movie westerns too.