Ambush, a word that had great import to any troop of cavalry in the U.S. Army on patrol during the Apache Wars of the mid to late 1800's. This small post (Fort Gamble, New Mexico Territory) is sending out a small scout patrol, moving across "heat-scorched mountain passes, broken country of spiny hills, dry arroyos, rough rock", and desert on the trail of a deranged killer Apache chieftain named Diablito, or "little devil". This undersized Apache leader is so dangerous, "born leader, gone crazy bad", that even his followers fear him. Should Diablito be found, a much larger force will then take the field for a final campaign to trap this Apache murderer.
In addition, a woman named Mary Carlyle, sister to someone, Ann Dunnifon, at Fort Gamble, has been taken captive, sole survivor of a wagon train massacre, and the Army's desire is that she be rescued from Diablito's band and the marauding Apaches then be returned to their reservation. Neither of these desires will be easily accomplished. This will be hard dusty, desert campaigning at its worst.
As in all his works of fiction of the frontier military west, Luke Short has written an interesting, engaging story with lively characters who hold the reader's attention. Though his westerns are for the most part formulaic, they make for entertaining reading. As true with all his books there is conflict, there is hardship, there is love, there is hate, all those elements that existed in life then as now. Though the book is western fiction it is realistic with both the background and people of the time plainly standing out.
So join this small, valiant force of men under arms, outnumbered 3 to 1 by the Apaches, as they sally forth on one last fated mission meeting Apache ambush with hope of success. For it is true with Diablito's hatred for the army in general, and hatred of ex-army scout Ward Kinsman in particular, Diablito will not be taken alive. This Apache ambush will be fought on both sides to the death.