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"Dead Silver" by Neil McMahon, HarperCollins, 288 pages, $24.95.

Hugh Davoren and his best friend/co-worker/co-conspirator Madbird are back on the case in "Dead Silver," the story of a double-murder long left unsolved - and the would-be murderer long, and wrongly, accused.

Hugh and Madbird are carpenters, and more, in Helena - not unlike author Neil McMahon is in Missoula.

McMahon's heroes are rough-hewn philosophers, champions of the down-and-out, needles in the eye of the well-to-do, delights to follow as their adventure unfolds.

"Dead Silver" has quickly caught the eye of reviewers, among them mystery guru Otto Penzler, who wrote: "It is the poignant and knowing prose that elevates this novel to literature. What separates this book from other outstanding crime novels is the moral might of the hero - and he is a hero, just as Philip Marlowe, Lew Archer, Spenser, Harry Bosch and C.W. Sugrue are. Davoren believes in friendship, his word, honor and the earth - the bleak but beautiful mountainous West."

McMahon also is the author of "Lone Creek" and "Blood Double."

"The Steel Wave" by Jeff Shaara, Ballatine Books, 493 pages, $28.

Former Missoula resident Jeff Shaara is en route back to the bestseller lists with "The Steel Wave," the second volume of his World War II trilogy - this a dramatization of D-Day and the battle for Normandy.

Now living in Sarasota, Fla., Shaara uses this volume to explore the rationale of commanders who gave the orders and the lives of the soldiers who took up rifle and bayonet on those orders.

Already, "The Steel Wave" is garnering important reviews, including this endorsement from Publishers Weekly:

"The keystone of the bestselling WWII trilogy dramatizes D-Day and ups the bar for military historicals, demonstrating that Shaara has hit full stride. … The muscular prose, deft sense of military drama and relentless pacing are well suited for this crackerjack saga."

Figures both historical and fictional populate the account, including the no-nonsense Sgt. Jesse Adams, who was a key figure in "The Rising Tide," the first installment in the trilogy. This time, Adams and the men he commands in the 82nd Airborne Division parachute behind German lines - only to find that nothing is as they expected.

Shaara is also author of "Gods and Generals," "The Last Full Measure," "The Glorious Cause" and "To the Last Man."

"Mustang: The Saga of the Wild Horse in the American West" by Deanne Stillman, Houghton Mifflin, 352 pages, $25.

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"Horses carried our mail, blazed our trails, carried us into war. They deserve a better end than slaughter."

Deanne Stillman is intent on saving the wild horse in the U.S. West - for historical, moral, environmental and some very personal reasons.

Her new book, "Mustang," details that crusade, beginning with an exploration of the history of the wild horse and concluding with a look at the politically charged war over its survival today.

And survival is what's at stake, as men with automatic weapons routinely clear entire herds of mustangs from the range. In fact, it was one such massacre - of 34 horses outside Reno, Nev. - that brought Stillman to the story 10 years ago.

The resulting tome is well-researched and written, and might well be essential reading for Westerners.

"Why," asks Stillman - who works out of Los Angeles - "are we waging a war against our greatest partner? Why have we, a cowboy nation, betrayed the mustang, beloved symbol of freedom, our great silent witness, who knows all of our secrets?"

Stillman is the author of "Twentynine Palms: A True Story of Murder, Marines and the Mojave."

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