From the author dubbed by Jeffery Deaver “a born storyteller” whose first novel Nothing Short of Dying was hailed as “exceptional,” “a rollercoaster read,” and “adrenaline-fueled” by publications on both sides of the Atlantic, this is Erik Storey’s next entry in the Clyde Barr series, a locomotive-paced brawler that has its hero teaming with besieged members of a Native American reservation to thwart outlaw bikers who are putting hundreds of thousands of lives at risk.
Clyde Barr, the drifter with lethal skills, is alone again, wandering the highways of the American West in search of something to believe in. As summer turns to autumn, he trades his car for a horse and heads for the mountains, planning to clear his head and regain his edge with some hunting. But when he runs across an elderly sick man—a Ute Indian from a nearby reservation—Clyde’s dream of solitude is quickly dashed.
On the reservation, Clyde finds the old man’s daughter, Lawana, and grandson, Taylor, as well as a group of menacing bikers called Reapers running wild in the economically depressed, half-abandoned village. Gripped by the desire to do good in a hard world, Clyde offers to stay on Lawana’s ranch to help out until her father is released from the hospital. He controls himself around the bikers, even when he sees them harass a few Native American women—but when the Reapers attack a local boy Clyde has to do something. As tensions rise between the locals and the Reapers, Clyde’s efforts to protect the reservation become a fight for his, Lawana’s, and Taylor’s lives. And then the stakes ratchet up even more.
In the remote Utah desert, surrounded by enemies, with no law enforcement presence, and with communication effectively cut off, Clyde must find a way to save his new friends, defeat the gang, and, hopefully, escape with his own skin intact. A Promise to Kill is an edge-of-the-seat thriller, pushing its no-hold-barred hero to new levels of improvisation and bare-knuckled blunt force.
A Promise to Kill CHAPTER ONE The second time I saw the old Ute, he was dying.
It was late summer, hot and drier even than usual. I was riding a new mare and leading a reluctant mule named Bob across the lowlands of northeast Utah that lay between the hump of the Book Cliffs and the higher Uinta Mountains to the north. When I saw the old man’s truck idling in the bar ditch, I let go of Bob’s lead rope and kicked the mare into a half gallop. Jumped off and let the reins hang as I checked on the old man.
He sat slumped against the steering wheel of his rusty twenty-year-old pickup and was complaining that his arm hurt and that he had some serious indigestion. I told him to hang on, rummaged in my pack, and pulled out a bottle of expired aspirin.
“I’m fine,” the old man said. “Just ate a bad lunch. You don’t need to worry about me.”
“No, you’re not. Here, take these.”
I shoved a couple of pills in his mouth and made him chew. He grimaced, which made his aged face look even older.
“Tasty, huh?” I said. “I’m no doctor, but I think your ticker’s giving out. Try not to die for a second. I’ll be right back.” I tied my mare and the mule to some nearby piñons and went back to the truck.
The old man looked like he was concentrating, trying to control his breathing. He rubbed his arm and clutched his shirt. “Ain’t my ticker. I have the heart of a warrior. Strong.” He thumped his chest feebly, and the grimace returned.
I dug back into my pack and found my cell phone, which was dead. Of course. There aren’t many places to plug a charger into a horse.
“We need to get you to a hospital.”
He nodded, grunted, and tried to unbuckle his seat belt. I slipped my knife from its sheath and cut the strap before he could struggle it off, then ran to the other side of the vehicle and helped him into the passenger seat.
Once I got him halfway comfortable, I hopped in the driver’s seat and tried to remember how to drive an old ranch pickup. The gears were sloppy, the clutch slipped, and the engine loped like a panicked Appaloosa I once owned. The knack of relying on mechanical horsepower, not the animal kind, came back to me a few miles later. As the old codger and I rattled down the dusty, narrow highway, I thought back to the first time we’d met, twenty minutes before.
I’d been sitting atop my horse, trotting across the gray asphalt, when the old man had stopped and waved me over.
“Nice pony,” he’d said. The clipped way he said it, combined with his dark, wrinkled skin, told me he was a Native. That was the politically correct term these days. I remembered playing Cowboys and Indians as a kid. These days, I guess kids played something PC, like Good Guys and Bad Guys.
According to the map in my pack, I was getting close to the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation. This old man proved I was closer than I’d thought.
“She’s a little tall to be a pony,” I said as an understatement. The mare stood at least sixteen hands.
The old man laughed, his skin a map of deep canyons and craters. “I raise ponies just like that,” he said. “On my ranch. Quarter horses. Not as full of fight as the ponies my great-grandfather rode into war, but pretty good.” He laughed again, then asked where I was going.
I shrugged. “North, I guess.” It didn’t much matter where, as long as I was moving. Although it would be nice to get up into the range that I’d been riding toward the last couple of days. The cold granite, crystal water, and tall, fragrant pines would help fix what was eating away at me.
“You should come by,” he said. “Cook me dinner and I’ll tell you some stories.”
I told him I would, and I’d planned on it, but I’d barely ridden two miles before I came to his idling pickup.
Now, as the sun sank low in the sky and the surrounding stubby juniper and piñon trees cast grotesque shadows across the road, I divided my time between trying to keep the old beater of a truck on the pavement and glimpsing over at this man I barely knew, whose condition seemed to be worsening.
“You still with me?” I asked.
He grunted and motioned vaguely with his hand. “Go to Wakara. Straight ahead five miles. My daughter works at the clinic there. She’s a doctor—a good one. She’ll take care of me.”
I did as he said, driving through a long narrow cut that had rock walls rising up on either side, but I had to stop a couple of times to remove some debris that had probably fallen off a flatbed and would have shredded the truck’s tires. When we finally got into what barely passed for a town, the sun had disappeared behind the rocky horizon and the clinic was closed.
“Where’s the nearest phone?”
He shrugged, pointed to the only building out of the ten or so in town that had a light burning. I drove there, told the man to sit tight, and walked toward the door.
As I neared the slumping building, I heard the rumble of laughter and jeering. The place looked like it wouldn’t make it through the winter. The outside walls were a mix of peeling plaster, missing windows, and artful graffiti.
Erik Storey is a former ranch hand, wilderness guide, dogsled musher, and hunter. He spent his childhood summers growing up on his great-grandfather’s homestead or in a remote cabin in Colorado’s Flat Tops wilderness. He has earned a number of sharpshooter and marksman qualifications. He is the author of three Clyde Barr novels, Nothing Short of Dying, A Promise to Kill, and the forthcoming Leave No One Alive. He and his family live in Grand Junction, Colorado.
“One of the best thrillers of the year . . . Extraordinarily well-written and well-crafted, A Promise To Kill is exciting, entertaining, plausible, realistic, and moves along flawlessly . . . This is a truly great thriller—so full of nail-biting suspense and surprises and fast-paced action that it actually is difficult to put down. Erik Story is not just a really good writer—he’s a great one.” —Washington Times
"Nail-biting . . . Readers will have a hard time putting this thriller down." —Publishers Weekly
"[Features] a fantasy figure of immortal appeal: the loner who rides into a town in trouble, rescues the folks by pulverizing the troublemakers, and leaves, much to the disappointment of the townsfolk . . . Entertaining . . . especially for those come for the action." —Booklist
"One of the summer's best mystery novels . . . A Sam Peckinpah via Peter Fonda motorcycle western, but with drones . . . [Storey] gives a high-country nod to the influence of legendary Florida mystery writer John D. MacDonald." —Outside magazine
“You will be hard-pressed to find anything this year that approaches the quality of this . . . A Promise to Kill is a terrific novel with a timeless premise: a stranger wanders into a bad situation not of his making, kicks posterior, gets his own posterior kicked, and emerges from the other side, bloodied and bent but unbowed . . . This second novel meets and exceeds the promise of that work, with enough explosions, suspense and fisticuffs to fill three books with change left over. Naturally, I loved every word of it.” —Book Reporter
"If you loved Erik Storey's debut novel Nothing Short of Dying as much as I did, then you're already hooked on this author, and it won't take much to convince you to read A Promise to Kill. Clyde Barr, Storey's iconic American hero/drifter, is saddled up and back. Barr never looks for trouble, but trouble is all around him in the rough country he travels, and Barr does not ride away from trouble—or evil. A Promise to Kill promises intense, edge-of-the-seat excitement to anyone who picks it up."
—Nelson DeMille, New York Times bestselling author of The Lion's Game and Nightfall
"Not just good but great. A Promise to Kill delivers on the promise of Story’s debut novel by showing protagonist Clyde Barr confronting even more insurmountable odds, and making the bad guys wish they’d stayed home. The Clyde Barr thrillers are my favorites, and Erik Storey is my favorite thriller writer. There's not even a close second." —Benjamin Whitmer, author of Pike and Cry Father and coauthor of New York Times Editors’ Choice memoir Satan Is Real
"Clyde Barr's life is like being in one of those cities with no left turns, when no matter how many times you turn right, you can't get away. He's a fascinating character, and Erik Storey is coming up fast as a writer. He keeps the story moving, and keeps you caring. " —James Sallis, Hammet Award-winning author of Drive (basis of the Cannes-winning film), The Killer Is Dying, and the Lew Griffin Series
“I loved it! I couldn’t stop turning the pages. You don't read this book so much as you hold on and try to keep up. Clyde Barr is so tough I'm honestly a little afraid of Erik Storey right now." —Rob Hart, author of New Yorked, City of Rose, South Village and The Woman from Prague
“I devoured A Promise to Kill in one sitting. It takes off at escape velocity and never relents. Do not mess with Clyde Barr.” —Meg Gardiner, Edgar Award-winning author of China Lake, Phantom Instinct, and The Shadow Tracer
“The novel’s hero, Clyde Barr, is a throwback to Billy Jack or Jan Michael Vincent in the 1980 classic Defiance, a lone wolf who roams from town to town, settling temporarily where he is most needed. This time it’s an Indian reservation overrun by outlaw bikers, and Storey proves masterful at keeping the pages turning. Barr is a man who places morals over money, and honor above might; one who runs toward trouble, forever committed to fighting the good fight—the kind of man all little boys dream of being.” —Joe Clifford, author of Lamentation, December Boys and Give Up the Dead