Today Patti Abbott is hosting Bill Crider Day over at her fab Pattinase blog. Crider has been remarkably prolific over the decades, managing to publish an average of two books a year while also working full-time as an academic until his retirement. As well as his mysteries, he has also published Spy, Horror and Western books as well as some YA fiction.
My modest contribution to today’s celebration is a review of his second published novel. It was also the second in the series of two-dozen mysteries featuring Sheriff Dan Rhodes, who is kept very busy in this one with boxes of human remains found dumped on a farm and then a dead body turning up, all in one piece this time (just about).
Sheriff Dan Rhodes knew it was going to be a bad day when Bert Ramsey brought in the arm and laid it on the desk.
Ramsey is an odd-job man who found the neatly labelled boxes of humans parts while clearing out a property. Shortly after the boxes are brought to the mortuary, he is murdered with a shotgun – can the two cases be connected? He seems to be living perhaps slightly beyond his modest means – $6,000 in large bills was even found secreted in a sock drawer. But how does this explain why he was shot at point-blank range? It turns out he was once part of a biker gang – Los Muertos – which has recently been seen in town again, which is very hard to miss given how sleepy the town of Clearview is. But could the murder have another motive? And why are the bikers so interested in Ramsay’s old girlfriend?
People who had never been to Texas before were often surprised by places like Blacklin County.
There are lots of reasons why I like this book – the plot, despite being so busy (the dumping of medical waste, a biker gang, the intervention of federal authorities, several murders, dope smuggling and assorted small-town skirmishes and domestic subplots), is never confusing, which is a real plus. Also, there is a strong emphasis on character, the protagonists all being plausible and recognisable and most of the time likeable too, so quickly we feel like we know them very well. The Sheriff is a paunchy, middle-aged widower who is generally well liked and respected. He has a small team and a less than stellar zircon system but is managing to get things done. His daughter has left home but has found companionship with Ivy and is finding himself falling in love with her. She, it turns out, has several hidden talents (not least real motorbike riding skills) and the two make a great pair.
“I bet Carella or the boys at the 87th wouldn’t let something like this slide by.”
Plus there are lots of references to Ed McBain and his 87th Precinct mysteries (even a stray dog gets briefly named “Carella”) – so right away I knew we were going to get along! Rhodes is not perfect and does not consider himself much of a sleuth (the baddies get the drop on him several times) and by the end of the book not all the criminals have been truly punished. There is a surprise at the end of the story, a genuine one, as to the identity of the murderer – I am not sure I was 100% convinced, but in a sense neither is Rhodes – which is perhaps as it should be. You can’t really know people all the way through, and learning that can be hard sometimes. I like Rhodes and his friends and colleagues – being in their company is time well-spent. Thank you Mr Crider.
The Sheriff Dan Rhodes Mysteries
- Too Late to Die (1986)
- Shotgun Saturday Night (1987)
- Cursed to Death (1988)
- Death on the Move (1989)
- Evil at the Root (1990)
- Booked for a Hanging (1992)
- Murder Most Fowl (1994)
- Winning Can Be Murder (1996)
- Death by Accident (1998)
- A Ghost of a Chance (2000)
- A Romantic Way to Die (2001)
- Red, White, and Blue Murder (2003)
- A Mammoth Murder (2006)
- Murder Among the O.W.L.S. (2007)
- Of All Sad Words (2008)
- Murder in Four Parts (2009)
- Murder in the Air (2010)
- The Wild Hog Murders (2011)
- Murder of a Beauty Shop Queen (2012)
- Compound Murder (2013)
- Half in Love with Artful Death (2014)
- Between the Living and the Dead (2015)
- Survivors Will Be Shot Again (2016)
- Dead, To Begin With (2017)
TracyK previously reviewed this novel over at her blog, Bitter Tea and Mystery;
Bill Crider’s ‘homemade’ homepage can be found here: http://www.billcrider.com/
I submit this review for Bev’s Silver Age Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunt in the ‘any other weapon’ category