Shadow Walker AKA Cole Webster, raised by the Sioux, is agonizing over the loss of his wife, Morning Mist, when he leaves the tribe. Soon he is assimilated into the whiteman's world, working as a Pinkerton detective.
Hot on the trail of the Billy Cobb Gang and stolen railroad money, he finds the leader's hideout and, in a gun battle, kills the outlaw before he finds where the money is hidden.
When Cole returns to the cabin, he finds Cole's widow, Dawn, a half-breed who bears a striking resemblance to Cole's lost wife. Cole's gut feeling is that Dawn knows where to find the money.
Dawn, preparing to use the money to get a new start in life after five years of abuse, refuses to reveal what she knows. She is bald-faced in her hatred of her late husband, though, who bought her and then physically abused her, often into a state of near death.
Cole, still grieving over his loss, becomes unbelievably cruel to Dawn. Sometimes he loves her and is gentle and kind, while other times he resents her and is as verbally cruel as her ruthless late husband.
Dawn is confused because she doesn't really belong with her people and finds Cole's growing love such a change from her former life. He wins her love, but not the heart of this reader.
Ms. Mason's hero, Cole, erased any sympathy right from the beginning of the story when he ridicules Dawn, which he continues to do throughout the novel. His alternately being kind one minute and mean the next is disturbing. Cole/Shadow Walker is too much a split personality for this reader, though for anyone who likes a hardened, sometimes rough hero, he would be appealing. SENSUAL (June, 400 pp., $4.99)