For those who enjoy a good, classic western with clearly delineated characters, The Mysterious Rider will be sure to entertain.
Set in Colorado, Grey performs his usual magic of transforming the landscape into an irresistible kaleidoscope of sensual color and description for the reader. Bearing in mind that the setting is the main character in Grey’s novels, this story is nevertheless entertaining even though it tends to be quite predictable. It’s always rewarding to see good things happen to good people and the bad get punished!
Columbine Belllounds, a beautiful nineteen year old girl who is the adopted daughter of Bill Belllounds, a successful, wealthy rancher, is “urged” to marry Belllounds’ wild and unruly son, Jack, who is returning after a three year absence. Belllounds dotes on his only son who is a drunken, gambling, vile tempered sot, but Belllounds is convinced that the beautiful Columbine can change the wastrel into a respectable man.
Columbine, not unnaturally, does not find the chosen groom to be of her liking, but she adores her adoptive father and wants to do anything she can to honor him and to show her love and appreciation for his taking her in after she was found as an infant in a field of wild columbine flowers.
Too late, Columbine realizes that ranch hand Wilson Moore loves her, and that she, much to her sudden surprise, loves him in return. There is, of course, great enmity between Moore and the young Belllounds, and this enmity sprouts even more hatred once Jack returns and sees the affection that Columbine shows to Moore.
Fortunately, a mysterious man named Hell-Bent Wade rides into the ranch and gets hired. He strikes up an unusual friendship with both Columbine and Wilson, and as the story proceeds the reader discovers who Wade really is.
This is an easy going, easy-to-read story, but certainly not among Grey’s finest works. It cannot compare with such classics as To the Last Man or Riders of the Purple Sage for intrigue or character development. Unfortunately, the characters seem a bit stereotypical, predictable, and even unbelievable. It is difficult to see Columbine respond willfully and with determination in one scene, only to be wishy-washy in a following scene when she agrees to marry a man she will never love just to appease her father.
Belllounds is a likeable character whose only real flaw is his inability to clearly see his son’s despicable character. Jack Belllounds is almost overdrawn as a bad guy while, unfortunately, Wilson Moore comes across too often as a weakling which does not fit his character at all.
Hell-Bent Wade is the best well drawn character, teaching lessons along his life’s rocky, murder-strewn road. There’s no mistaking he’s a good man who appears to have made some bad decisions in his day, but he admirably atones for his faults.