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Justice For All: The Search for Big Poker Tom by Wayne E. Purcell takes place in the sleepy town of Bridgeport, California in the year 1891. A member of the Paiute nation (Native Americans of the region), known as Big Poker Tom, rode into the little town and disappeared shortly afterward. When his horse was later found riderless, members of the Paiute tribe feared the worst. Bridgeport is turned upside down when the local parson and his pet dog Digger find something like a rope in the local water hole, only it turns out to be a length of thick human hair. Soon afterward, other clues surface to indicate that Tom might have been killed. Local leaders of the Paiutes begin to investigate. Sheriff Cody of Bridgeport meets a Paiute delegation that rides into the small town. With the sheriff’s help, they find clues. A human torso is found in the river. Big Poker Tom’s favorite coat turns up and things begin to look bad for a local Chinese restaurant owner, named Tai, who played poker with Tom the night before he went missing.
Justice For All: The Search for Big Poker Tom by Wayne E. Purcell is a historical novel about a disturbing incident known to ancestors of the indigenous Paiutes as the Au Quong Tai affair. Writing historical novels is tricky, and in Justice For All, Purcell does a fine job filling in needed dialogue and giving the various participants certain characteristics to help tell the tale based on factual events. Purcell even provides pictures in this book of one of the Paiute leaders and the building where the incident may have taken place. Without giving too much away, clues lead to a trial and a verdict. What happens afterward is not for the squeamish. How the residents of the town of Bridgeport and the Paiutes come out of all this will give you much to think about.