July 05, 2004 12:00 PM

By James Lee Burke

James Lee Burke is a mostly wonderful writer who should be forgiven the occasional lapse—as in the case of his latest. The fourth Burke featuring Billy Bob Holland, Ponies follows the Montana lawyer as he’s threatened for defending Johnny American Horse, an alcoholic Indian activist. The novel offers vivid characters and Burke’s descriptive feel for the West is clear, but his tale could have used another go-round with a sharp red pencil. Sure, you could do worse than to ride these wild Ponies on a lazy day, but you could also do better: Read Burke’s Black Cherry Blues or Heaven’s Prisoners.

MYSTERY

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