Author: Aaron Cooley

Publisher: Melnore Press; 1 edition (January 19, 2017)

Publication Date: January 19, 2017

Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC


Aaron Cooley’s new novel opens with this dedication: 

This book is supposed to be at its heart a novel about three daughters;

and so I dedicate it to my own, Beatrix Hope.”

This dedication might suggest three daughters would be major players in the story, but as two of them are dead, one is disabled and unable to speak due to gun violence, they serve more as inspirations for the action, not living participants in it. 

However, the subtitle is a strong signal of what will happen. The story is indeed a modern Western, featuring central character Clayton “Sour” Manco, a former FBI agent who dislikes guns. He was drummed out of the bureau under a cloud, but is drawn again into hunting violent killers by Congressman Homer Blunt. As a result, Manco is a literary descendent of all those legendary gunfighters who seek to put their pasts behind them but become enmeshed in the need to fall back on their old deadly skills against their will.

In this modern setting, Blunt wants Manco to hunt down and kill three assassins who’ve murdered three fellow congressional representatives for, at first, unknown reasons.  Blunt’s head of security, Jill Creete, is assigned the task of being Manco’s shadow. She too lost her former employment in the government under her own cloud and doesn’t think much of Manco until he shows off his investigative chops. 

The story is full of such psychologically wounded warriors, especially the trio of assassins with murderous vengeance coursing through their veins. To reveal what their motives are would be a spoiler, but I will say two dead school girls are very much at the heart of their anger. I will also note the irony of their using gun violence to react to what they perceive is a lack of gun control and any willingness by our leaders to restrict access to guns.

Cooley is especially good at drawing complex character portraits with none of his characters portrayed as simple black-and-white figures of good or evil.     Most are very dark indeed, no matter what side of the law they are on. In particular, his anti-hero, Manco, is able to see the flaws in Blunt and the reasoning of his quarry despite their bloodlust. 

I’ve had the pleasure of reading two previous Cooley novels, the Bond homage, Shaken, Not Stirred, and part of his Supreme Court legal saga,   Four Seats: The Full Docket. While I have no quibbles with his previous work, I do think The Guns of Bridgewood is more sharply drawn with a richer depth in his characters. It’s also easy to see his script-writing experience as this novel unfolds like it belongs on screen.

I think the novel is a fine way for Aaron Cooley to begin 2017.  It’s thought-provoking and an obvious leap forward in one novelist’s development.