DEAD MAN’S HAND
FROM DAVID NIX COMES A TRUE WESTERN ADVENTURE
In Dead Man’s Hand, historical western author David Nix introduces readers to Jake Paynter, a man who is haunted by both his abusive childhood and his participation in the carnages of Civil War. Not to mention the fact that he is “doomed to die.”
I received an advanced reading copy (ARC) of this book from the author, publisher, or publicist. The receipt of this ARC did not influence my choice to review the book on this site. It also did not influence how I felt about the book or its characters, storyline, and overall feel. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. As such, they only deal with what is written on the pages of the book and how what is written and otherwise presented made me feel during and after my reading of the book.
Dead Man's Hand by David Nix
Series: Jake Paynter #1
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca on March 22, 2022
Genres: Historical Western
Buy: Amazon | B & N | Kobo | Goodreads
Condemned to die, he's about to find a reason to live.
Jake Paynter is a doomed man. Haunted by an abusive childhood and his participation in atrocities of the Civil War, he seeks the isolation of the Plains Cavalry as a white officer for an all-Black buffalo soldier troop. Now, he is in irons and certain to be hanged for killing his captain after refusing an inhumane order. Despite his best efforts to maintain isolation, he starts to make friends on his journey to trial. The people of the wagon train begin looking to Paynter for leadership, and he reluctantly falls into the role.
The opportunity to escape arises when the wagon train is attacked by bandits, but Paynter's growing ties to the travelers compel him to stay. As his trial approaches, Paynter must lean on his friends for salvation, but the laws of the west are swift and harsh, and a grueling confrontation with his past is on the horizon.
No burden proves more terrible to a loner than the holding of a life in his hands.
This was a fun and interesting read for me. I’m not normally one to pick up a pure western read, but thanks to my father—a true lover of western movies and novels, I decided to give Dead Man’s Hand a shot. I am so glad I did! Not only is the book fast paced and well-written, but the characterization and storytelling are great, too.
In the story, Jake Paynter is a man who is haunted by his past and dejected about his future. He killed his captain rather than follow the man’s inhumane orders and because of it, he is facing trial, and certain to be put to death. But along the route to his doom, he is compelled to help protect the innocent people of the wagon train ferrying him to his grim future from the bandits who wish to harm them.
This surface plot in this book is quite similar in scope to the 1956 western movie, The Last Wagon. Though specific book elements are vastly different from the movie overall, the story through-line does follow a similar trajectory in terms of goals, motivations, conflict, stakes, and the building of connection with others. I only know this because I recently watched The Last Wagon with my father and was instantly reminded of the overarching movie plot when I started reading this book.
Rich, vivid storytelling, real historical events, a diverse cast who experience social and cultural differences and face true moral questions, Dead Man’s Hand is a genuine western enjoyment. If you love Old West tales that feature good guys, bad guys, wagon trains, shadowy cargo, bandits, and plenty of gunslinging action and adventure, you will no doubt enjoy this story as I did. It’s a fun read, and a true testament to times gone by.
Loved this one! I will definitely be reading the next book in the series.
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