The Dead of Winter, by Lee Collins, Angry Robot, RRP£7.99, 313 pages
In this flawed but enjoyable fantasy cowboy tale, Cora Oglesby and her husband Ben eke out a living riding around the American West killing monsters. Their latest quarry is a wendigo, or cannibalistic ghoul, which is terrorising a Colorado mining town, Leadville. Once that creature is dispatched, they are hired by a British nobleman to protect his silver mine, under threat from a nest of vampires.
Cora is a powerful, no-nonsense protagonist, handy with six-gun and sabre, and her character – tortured, hard-drinking, yet tender – gives the novel bite. Her husband, by comparison, is sketchily drawn, although there’s a justification for this, thanks to a twist that won’t be revealed here.
The author throws in a couple of other unexpected narrative turns, but the story suffers from an over-padded stiffness and repetition – often a scene will be superfluously revisited a few pages later from another character’s point of view. More “whoa” than “yee-hah”, but worth saddling up for, nonetheless.