Barnaby Skye, seaman-deserter from the Royal Navy, Rocky Mountain trapper, and frontiersman extraordinaire, brings his Crow Indian wife, Many Quill Woman (whom Skye calls "Victoria"), to the trappers' rendezvous on the Popo Agie River of Wyoming in the summer of 1838. There, he learns that the beaver-trapping business is dying out. When he is offered a chance to become a post trader in Victoria's homeland, he makes the journey to St. Louis to present himself as a candidate for the job to the mighty managers of the Upper Missouri Outfit.
The 2,000-mile voyage down the Missouri River steamboat Otter is a lesson in survival to Skye and Victoria. The river offers dangers at every turn--but the real danger lies in another passenger on the paddlewheel steamer, the Creole fur brigade leader Alexandre Bonfils. This nefarious man, with influential relatives in St. Louis, is a rival for the job Skye is seeking and is determined to be the only candidate by the time the Otter reaches the city.
Adding to Skye's problems is his rescue of a Cheyenne woman, Lame Deer, who needs to get to St. Louis to find her missing husband--a white man who has deserted her and their two children to marry into a prominent St. Louis family.
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A tinted review in adult Forecasts indicates a book that's of exceptional importance to our readers, but that hasn't received a starred or boxed review.DOWNRIVERRichard S. Wheeler. Forge, (320p) Wheeler's westerns just keep getting better and better. This is the 12th novel in the writer's Spur Award winning Barnaby Skye series, chronicling the adventures of mountain man Skye and his Crow Indian wife, Victoria. Last year's novel, Going Home, had the hard-drinking, earthy, resourceful couple on the run from trouble in Mexican California. Six years later, in 1838, Skye and Victoria are on their way from the Rocky Mountains to St. Louis so Skye can compete for a wilderness job as a post trader with the powerful and ruthless American Fur Company. The journey will cover 1,500 miles by land and river and is fraught with peril and treachery. This time, however, Skye's enemies are not Indian warriors seeking a stand-up fight, but white men who have secrets, wealth and reputations to protect, and who prefer to lie, cheat and stab a foe in the back rather than look him in the eye. That is not the mountain justice Skye is used to, and he will have to learn new skills to survive in the civilized white man's business world. Complicating the trip is a Cheyenne Indian woman determined to find her white husband in St. Louis, not realizing he has abandoned her to marry a suitable white woman. A slick, manipulative Creole trader; a brutal, ham-fisted steamboat captain; and a likable whiskey smuggler add high drama to the trip. This is the best of the Skye novels so far, an adventure mystery full of suspense, action, historical color and careful portrayals of men and women facing hard choices amid uncertainty and danger. Wheeler is a master of character and plot, and this novel showcases his talents at their peak.