Rae DelBianco’s debut novel Rough Animals:  An American Western Thriller is equal parts charming, strange, unpredictable, and genuinely horrifying. 

Wyatt Smith and his twin sister Lucy are the central figures in the gripping tale.  They live alone on a ranch in Utah where they tend to the cattle that serves as their income.  While out inspecting the herd one evening, Wyatt finds some of the animals have been shot and killed.  In his search for the perpetrator, he’s shot in the arm.  Wounded, he manages to capture the culprit who turns out to be a feral child. 

Wyatt takes the girl home and keeps her locked in a room until he and his sister can decide what to do.  He needs the money for the lost cattle or the siblings will lose the ranch.  The girl-child claims she doesn’t have any money, but she does tell Wyatt where he can find some.  Before the whereabouts of the needed funds are revealed, the girl escapes.  Wyatt then embarks on a journey to find the girl and the money. 

Wyatt’s trek proves to be a dangerous one.  He encounters drug-runners, menacing biker gangs, and a host of desperate characters that want to see him dead.  Through this dark and disturbing world, he comes to grips with the demons in his own life that have left him and his sister orphans and the secrets that drive a person to dark and foreboding places.

Rough Animals: An American Western Thriller is imaginative and surprising.  You’ll remember the book long after you’ve finished reading it.

Buy it here.

Reviewed by Chris Enss, COWGIRL Book Editor, and a New York Times best-selling author who writes about women of the Old West.