Compound Murder by Anthony Award-winning author Bill Crider is the 20th in the Sheriff Dan Rhodes mystery series about Blacklin County, Texas (available August 13, 2013).
So if you thought the best thing I’m going to tell you right now is there is a brand spanking new book in the Sheriff Dan Rhodes series by Bill Crider, you are only partly right. In and of itself, that news is spectacular enough to have me setting a pitcher of iced tea on the table by my recliner, so I don’t have to run to the kitchen for refills. But a few weeks ago, I came across an article in the venerable New York Times called “Orphans, Drug Wars and Other Mysteries” by Christopher Kelly. Lo and behold, while Kelly is praising the state of Texas for being fertile ground for fiction landscapes of every description, he points to fewer than ten mystery writers who have “an appreciation for the outsize personality of the state.”
And who do you think is on that list? TA DA! None other than Bill Crider and his Sheriff Dan Rhodes series. I am so happy to see Bill and Dan get the recognition they deserve, and I also want to give you a tiny peek at the latest book in this highly entertaining series.
Compound Murder actually begins with a minor crime of sorts in the Beauty Shack, which was the very location of the murder we discover in the first pages of the recent Sheriff Dan book, Murder of a Beauty Shop Queen. To get a clear sense of how interaction between Sheriff Dan and his dispatcher, Hack, can sometimes go, let’s listen in to this conversation:
“What’s up?” Rhodes asked.
“Lonnie Wallace phoned,” Hack said.
That didn’t exactly answer the question, but that was always Hack’s approach. He liked to work his way up to the answer in his own way. Sometimes Rhodes thought it was a plot to drive him crazy. “What did he want?” Rhodes asked.
“Some sheriffin’,” Hack said. “Why else would he phone us?”
“I thought maybe there’d been a crime committed. That’s usually why people call.” “Yeah, well, there was that, too.”
“What was the crime?”
“Hair,” Hack said.
“Must be an echo in here,” Hack said.
“You know better than that. Tell me about the theft.”
“You don’t have to get snippy about it.” Hack always resorted to the snippy defense when he could tell Rhodes was irritated.
“Just tell me,” Rhodes said.
“I thought I did.”
Rhodes sighed, then wished he hadn’t. It would just encourage Hack. “Give me some specifics.”
“Lonnie Wallace called.”
Rhodes didn’t say a word. After a second or two Hack continued. “He said somebody broke into the Beauty Shack and stole his hair.”
“Well, he owned it, so that would make it his, right?” Lonnie was the owner of the Beauty Shack and one of the operators.
So now you get the tenor of the way things work in Clearview, Blacklin County, Texas, except maybe you don’t, because shortly after Sheriff Dan gets on over to the Beauty Shack, Hack is on the phone again. The Sheriff instantly notices the difference in tone.
“You better get out to the college,” Hack said. “Quick.”
“What’s the trouble?”
This time Hack didn’t obfuscate or beat around the bush.
“In the parking lot in back of the building,” he said. “Some body’s dead.”
Even before Sheriff Dan can verify that the dead body is a murder victim, a teacher of mathematics and graduate of the Citizen’s Sheriff’s Academy, Dr. C.P. Benton (known as Seepy), is at the site and trying to the organize the crime scene. As it turns out, Seepy is right, English teacher Earl Wellington was murdered.
So besides all the small town clamor that seems to pursue the sheriff like a tornado in spring, there is a murder to solve, and with all the quirkiness that a Sheriff Dan mystery involves, the road to a solution is nothing if not downright fun.
If you are not familiar with these books, I guarantee if you read one, you will be on the hunt for every Sheriff Dan Rhodes book and not be satisfied until you have completed the series.
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Terrie Farley Moran’s recent collection of short stories, THE AWARENESS and other deadly tales, is currently available in e-format for the Nook and the Kindle. Terrie blogs at Women of Mystery.net, and you can look forward to her short story “Knowledge is Deadly” in the November issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine due on newsstands soon. She is presently writing the Read ’Em and Eat Café cozy mystery series.