I really can't imagine why this book is not more famous. This has the same kind of immediately obvious qualities that have made books like Gatsby, Of Mice and Men, etc, such enduring American classics, have indeed made them synonymous with the term. It's purely American in tone and setting, deals with that weighty issue of morality and justice which goes down so well in the classic canon, and indeed deals with the very foundling state of those concepts in the emergent nation. And, of course, it is well-written and a great story.
The novel crackles with tension from the very first pages, and I could tell I was in for something special. What follows is a stark, sinewy tale of a western small-town mob that gets itself in a lather about some cattle rustling and goes off to track the culprits, with what every man among them knows is a plan to lynch them when found. Voices dissent, voices shout down, quiet men go along for the ride, simple men go along for the red, dissenters go to try and provide a rational voice, and, eventually, some men are found.
The Ox-Bow Incident has a simple plot and structure but is nonetheless a masterpiece. It chews up issues of justice, law, democracy, masculinity, strength over reason, morality over action, cowardliness over moral conviction. The characters - particularly poor Davies, who by the end, though the only vocal dissenter, is the one to truly tie himself up in existential knots and angst - are sketched fantastically for such a small tale. All of them feel like icebergs, that the events of this tale are only a tiny portion of the arc of their lives. Small sketches are drawn, but from that you reasonably believe you can extrapolate entire lives, entire characters.
It's a great achievement, and I would recommend it to everyone.