Second place, Western Fiction, Will Rogers Medallion Award, 2014.
Dunbar solves a hidden murder when he comes onto the scene of cattle rustling and a dubious water project.
A stranger named Dunbar comes to the town of Winsome, on the plains of Wyoming, in the 1890's. He goes to work at the Little Six ranch and begins to look into the affairs of Tut Whipple, a water project developer. The investigation starts small, with the tracking down of stolen beef but extends to the disappearance of a young girl named Annie Mora. Dunbar probes here and there, developing an acquaintance with Whipple's wife and an interest in a dam and reservoir Whipple built near the town. Whipple's men come after Dunbar, first with fists and then with guns, until Whipple can no longer avoid a showdown on the dark prairie.
“This is strong stuff, slow to boil and in that sense a realistic representation of life’s many layers and subtleties. Stir in intriguing subplots involving a missing girl, potential romantic liaisons among the major players and the very real threats of looming violence, and you have an addictive period Western-crime novel, something John D. Nesbitt has become known for. And as Dark Prairie demonstrates, it is a distinction well earned.” –Big Sky Journal
“It’s Nesbitt at his best with a dark mystery set in an out-of-the-way Wyoming locale, neatly drawn characters, spot-on dialog, and well-considered action.” –Meridian Bridge
“A solid, compact western from the always-reliable Nesbitt.”—Booklist
“Nesbitt provides fine period detail and lucid prose as Dunbar’s purpose and his target become slowly and convincingly clear.”—Publishers Weekly
“Western master and Spur Award-winner Nesbitt has crafted a memorable coming-of-age mystery set in the wide-open spaces of 1890’s Wyoming. Slim, tightly written, and quietly suspenseful, the novel opens a captivating window into the frontier justice system.”—Library Journal
“. . . as a coming-of-age story, Dark Prairie should interest a wider audience than would a traditional Western.” —Historical Novel Society