When U.S. Deputy Marshal Merlin Fanshaw mistakenly kills an innocent boy during a bank robbery in Miles City, Montana, he abandons his career as a lawman and rides out into a vast and sparsely settled region known as The Big Open. Hired as a cowhand by ranch woman Billie Hart, Merlin is soon drawn into a deepening conflict between Billie and a ruthless cattleman who will stop at nothing to possess her ranch. When violence threatens, Merlin takes a stand, and exorcises the ghosts of his past.
There are a few white settlements, including Fort Custer on the Bighorn River, a trading post or two, a couple of missionaries, and the town of Medicine Lodge, some 20 miles south of the new Crow Agency. There are two big cow outfits in the area and a couple of small ranches, all trespassing on tribal land. There are a dozen or so farmers along Medical Lodge Creek, and they're trespassing, too.
Sheepman Abel McKenzie and cattleman Zack Rainford were once the best of friends, but are now, in 1887 Montana Territory, mortal enemies. Their escalating feud threatens to throw the people of Meriwether County into a bloody range war. Three ranchers have already been killed, and the investigation into the homicides received only cursory review. One of those three men was McKenzie's employee. Deputy United States Marshal Merlin Fanshaw is sent to investigate and enforce the law.
The chance discovery of a virtual mountain of copper brings incredible wealth and power to two men: Irish immigrant and miner, Marcus Daly, and merchant, banker, and investor, William Andrews Clark. The two men become bitter rivals, employing armies of workers from every corner of the world as they battle head-to-head for control of "The Richest Hill on Earth." And then, in the spring of that year, the stakes increase dramatically. News of an assassin stalking Daly reaches the Territorial Capitol...