In the last of her Brides of Last Chance Ranch series, Gunpowder Tea, Margaret Brownley pits Miranda Hunt, a female Pinkerton Agent out to prove her worth, against Wells Fargo Detective Jeremy Taggert, who is chasing the man who killed his friend. No one knows who the mysterious Phantom is, the outlaw plaguing Arizona with train, stagecoach, and bank robberies. All they know is that the clues point to Last Chance Ranch, and so each agency sends a representative to bring him to justice. Unfortunately, neither knows that the other agency has an operative in the field, and Miranda and Jeremy mutually assume the other is in the Phantom's gang. How can they catch the elusive Phantom if they are too busy chasing each other?
I have to say, the Phantom was pretty lucky to be pursued by two agents before they found out each other's identity. Since they were so busy assuming the other and their contacts were involved, the real outlaw could have gotten away clean by using a little more intelligence. Sadly for the thief, villains are prone to such errors of judgement. However, as a reader it was a lot of fun to watch the agents make logical assumptions based on the circumstances, understanding their reasoning but knowing just how wrong they are. It was a rather clever tactic by the author - both humorous and still able to show off their detective abilities. The clues to the real villain are carefully disguised, and I confess I did not pick up on them until Miranda spells it out.
I really enjoyed that Miranda keeps case files not only on all her suspects, but also on God - a journal of sorts, detective style. She knows He is in charge, but she has issues and questions that she wants to take up with Him, and keeping a case file suits her personality better than other styles of journaling. Throughout the novel Miranda is learning the difference between motives - is she doing this to please (and prove herself to) men, or to please God?
While the cover of a novel rarely factors into a review, I must say that this one is cleverly done - that look of pure suspicion on Jeremy's face as he accepts tea from the sweetly smiling Miranda as she hides a derringer behind her back . . . it suits the tone perfectly - full of humor, sparks, hidden agendas, and delicious beverages.
It is a fun novel and a fitting conclusion to the series - even Eleanor Walker finds a solution to her heiress problem (but I shan't spoil how) - and it is my favorite of the three. 4 out of 5 stars
For more fun novels about Pinkerton Agents, I recommend:
Love in Disguise by Carol Cox
The Secret Lives of Will Tucker series by Kathleen Y'Barbo: