So, I finally finished a book I've been waiting to read for quite some time, and other than a few quibbles, I rather enjoyed it.
R. S. Belcher returns to Golgotha, Nevada, in late November of 1870. Well, minus a small prologue a bit earlier, involving a certain dinner party in the Sierra Nevada mountains. A special party, where the dinner menu includes long pork.
Anyway. Welcome to The Shotgun Arcana.
When we actually get to Golgotha, following the aftermath of the Donner Party and Biqa (nee Malachi Bick) and Raziel (nee Ray Zeal) having a minor tiff about the source, we join Deputies Jim and Mutt chasing down a vampiric lizard that likes to prey on goats. Which leads into discovering the body of a dead lady of negotiable virtue outside the Dove's Roost brothel. Well, not exactly a body, as someone has rather artistically arranged the interior of her to suit some kind of pattern.
We also have returning characters from the first book, Augustus, now married to Gillian, despite Clay building a new body for Auggie's dead wife, who's head is being kept alive in a jar. Maude and her daughter are still female warriors of Lilith; however, Maude and Mutt (the Indian coyote shapeshifter) are stepping out and Constance is sweet on Deputy Jim. Sheriff Highfather gets a minor love interest of his own with the arrival of Kate, who works for the Feds. We also have Black Rowan, who takes over the prostitution rackets in town, having retired from Barbary Coast pirating. Mayor Pratt is still in love with Ringo, but still not up to admitting to the relationship, since everyone is still keeping an eye on him in his new role of Defender of the Faith, since he wields the Sword of Labon. Malachi has a surprise of his own as his daughter Emily arrives on the coach.
There's a heck of a stew of gods and legends wandering through these pages, but unlike the first book, Malachi gives a better explanation to Emily about how so many things can fit in such a small place. (Short version: God is too big to wear just one face. It's much more detailed, but that works for the time being.)
The main plot, after all the subplots start coming together really starts picking up towards the middle, when Ray Zeal and his Praetorians ride towards Golgotha. Throughout the first half, we meet people who have teeth scattered from the skull in the prologue. All of whom are vicious killers, assassins, and cannibals. The skull was Raziel's to guard, and he abandoned it to Biqa. Now he wants it back. It becomes quite a ride, particularly as our protagonists all meet their opposite numbers among Raziel's forces.
A few scenes really stick out for me. When Maude, Black Rowan, and Kate meet for the first time, one can almost hear Fergie's cover of "Barracuda". It's less Maiden, Mother, Crone and more Lawful, Neutral, Chaos. Another involves the lynch mob that forms when people see Mutt stepping out with a white woman and Pratt rides into the rescue. Given Pratt and Mutt aren't exactly friendly, the conversation on what they have in common (society not particularly liking them for whom they love) is very telling and touched a nerve in me.
The resolution of the main plotline is satisfying, although the wrap up had one place that was like biting tinfoil. On the other hand, there are new threads for another book of Golgotha, and I look forward to returning.