This book clearly has divided opinion. If you come to it expecting constant action and gunfights in the Old West, you will be severely disappointed. If, on the other hand, you are prepared to take the story on its own merits, you will be pleasantly suprised. It provides plenty of incident and drama, as well as, suprisingly, an intellectual backbone.
Tom Holland has written both popular history (Rubicon), which show a skill for narrative history and easy explanation of complex ideas, and historical fantasies (Deliver Us From Evil), which show love of blending real life characters with vampires. Of the two, this book starts by appearing to offer more of the latter - with its hints of Conan Doyle's Lost World and surviving dinosaurs somewhere in nineteenth century america. In fact, there is just as much of the former in Holland's tale, which blends romance, western, murder mystery/procedural, with the race for the possible prehistoric survival and rivalry between two archeologists. The implications of the new Darwinian thinking on the world - and how it can be misused to justify barbarities - provide a backdrop to the story and helps to bind together its many disparate elements. It even finishes with a dénouement that subtly recalls some of Stephen Jay Gould's essays. But such elements are not central to one's enjoyment of the tale - a vivid recreation of America at the end of the nineteenth century, corrupt, brutal, dazzlingly beautiful, should ensure that everyone finds something to like in this book. Well worth trying.