Apr 9 2015 3:00pm

Book 1 with Sheriff Dan Rhodes: Too Late to Die by Bill Crider

Many readers develop a deep affinity for a continuing detective or mystery series beyond well-sculpted plots, fast action, and wisecracks, that is, if they are going to stick with it for the long read. I know I do. An emotional hook, so to speak, that I can identify with in the main and supporting characters. In The Crime of Our Lives, Lawrence Block says: “We make our way through a series of books because we want to enjoy the company of a favorite character in a new situation.” Examples for me include Robert B. Parker’s Spenser, who epitomizes that code of honor he wears on his sleeve, in part, by his devotion to Susan and Hawk. With Ross Macdonald’s world-weary protagonist Lew Archer, I’m there for his sermonizing against the ills of humanity and the solutions he offers. Heck, even a career criminal like Richard Stark’s Parker gets my thumbs-up for his outsider stance and honorable dedication to the job at hand. My warmth for Bill Crider’s Sheriff Dan Rhodes is quite simple: he is a good man.

Sheriff Dan Rhodes is the kind of man I want for a neighbor and best friend. He’s a doting father to his daughter, Kathy and in this first novel, Too Late to Die, he’s still a husband grieving his late wife. As sheriff of Blacklin County, Texas, (near eight thousand residents, give or take), he keeps plugging forward to carry out the job he was hired to do. And, like in most municipalities, the community is rife with shortsighted bureaucrats that Sheriff Rhodes must wade through, politely cutting down to size if need be, just to persevere.He doesn’t take himself too seriously and lets the air out of other civil servants who think they are high and mighty. Like Archer and Spenser, Rhodes is a continuing rush of fresh air in a genre that can copy itself into almost-irrelevance.

In Too Late to Die, we find Rhodes slightly out of step with the times when it comes to technology, but this is not out of ignorance:

Rhodes didn't mind taking the time, but he wasn't convinced that anything he found would be of help. He was a man who believed in his instincts. He liked to talk to people, listen to their stories, size them up. If they had anything to hide, he could usually find it out. But physical evidence didn't hurt anything when it was available.

And he will have to use all those instincts and more when a local, Jeanne Clinton, is murdered. The case couldn’t come at a worse time, professionally, for Rhodes who is up for re-election in less than a month. His opponent, Ralph Claymore, is a good-looking, political showboating bore, who is also merciless behind the scenes and won’t stop politicizing Jeanne’s death. Jeanne’s husband, Elmer, immediately clams up when Rhodes begins probing about the lady’s regular nighttime visitors, who came by their home while Elmer was working the night shift. From this straightforward setup, Crider adds textured layers that, before long, implicate various residents, including his political opponent. It also leads Rhodes into grave danger. As he is interviewing one potential suspect fishing along a stream, an assassin strikes:

What he remembered most, though, was the way that Bill Tompkin’s head just seemed to sort of come apart, and how Tomkins dropped like a rock, rolled a couple of times, and came to a stop in the water, with the red stain seeming quite brown as it widened around him.

Rhodes gives chase, losing the cutthroat. But rest assured, he will pick up the trail again, clear away some red herrings the author has planted, and finally confront a villain that I admit I didn’t see coming, though in retrospect, all the signs were there.

A definite reward of the Sheriff Dan Rhodes mysteries — beyond the well-developed protagonist, the wry humor, and plots humming along with generous doses of action — is Crider’s deft handling of the vibrant cast who make up the universe of Blacklin County. Some include: his intuitive daughter Kathy, who cares deeply for her father’s happiness; his second wife Ivy, who won’t admit (later in the series) that their two dogs and a cat cause Rhodes’ sneezing fits; the police sidekicks Hack and Lawton and their comic riffs; various deputies over the years; and Deputy Ruth Grady, whose pragmatic support is tops; and finally a lethargic housecat named Sam who Rhodes says is the “very model of energy conservation.” Crider’s laid-back dialogue will leave the reader chuckling along as Sheriff Dan strides through the cornucopia of humanity in this picturesque small town.

Too Late to Die is a top mystery, and I’d be surprised if this novel didn’t ignite a fire under you to burn through more of the twenty-two—and counting—books in this exceptional series.

This sweepstakes has ended. Thanks for entering!

Comment below for a chance to win a digital copy of Bill Crider's Too Late to Die and two signed hardcovers in the Sheriff Dan Rhodes series: Red, White, and Blue Murder (#13) and A Mammoth Murder (#14)!

To enter, make sure you're a registered member of the site and simply leave a comment below.

TIP: Since only comments from registered users will be tabulated, if your user name appears in red above your comment—STOP—go log in, then try commenting again. If your user name appears in black above your comment, You’re In!

Too Late to Die Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  A purchase does not improve your chances of winning.  Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry.  To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry at beginning at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) April 9, 2015. Sweepstakes ends 2:59 p.m. ET April 16, 2015. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

Edward A. Grainger aka David Cranmer is the editor/publisher of the BEAT to a PULP webzine and books and the recent Western novella, Hell Town Shootout.

Read all of Edward A. Grainger's posts for Criminal Element.

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Gordon Bingham
1. gordonbingham
I've enjoyed this series for some time - looking forward to this one!
Karen Reittinger
2. pknk77494
I enjoy all of Mr. Crider's books, but the Sheriff Dan Rhodes series is my favorite.
Bruce Arthurs
3. bruce-arthurs
Been a while since I or my wife have read any of the Dan Rhodes books. This would be a good reason to catch up.
Greg Daniel
4. gregdaniel
Bill Crider always provides a good read and I would expect nothing less from a man who truly appreciates Joe Versus the Volcano for the gem that it is. If you have not read a Dan Rhodes mystery, you really need to and,if you have, it is high time you read another.
5. randal120
A long time favorite series of mine.
Rick Ollerman
6. ollerman
Big fan of Mr. Crider, who has been helpful the few times I've intruded on his time to ask questions for research of my own, and a big fan, like Jack Vance (!), of his books. I 'd love to win a copy of the new one.
7. Evan Lewis
Been too long since I read this. And I see it (and the first books in two other Crider series), are included in A MURDER OF MYSTERIES, 20 mysteries for Kindle for $2.99. What a deal!
peter greene
8. shanachie
I've never read this series but it's comparison to Spenser and Lew Archer and others makes me very curious.
John T Duke
9. johnd
I've been a fan for, oh, just about thirty years now.
10. maryc
I haven't read any books in this series but it sounds like one I would enjoy.
11. DebP
It looks like time to get reacquainted with the series.
12. Todd Mason
I'm behind on my Crider novels, so am glad of the reminder of this one and of the kind offer. Bill being a good man, it's not too surprising his most durable character is, too...
Greg Mattia
13. gjmattia
Haven't tried this author before, but I would like to add him to the stable of authors that I read. The best way is always to start at the beginning.
Thomas Walker
14. twalker
Would sure like to win these books!
William Seward
16. RainCrow
Longtime fan of the series. I eagerly await every volume.
Kelly Saderholm
17. KellyS
I love Sherriff Rhodes, and this is one I don't have. I'd love to have a copy!
Although I live in Ky, not Texas, I do live in the same sort of small town and feel right at home. I also have to drink a cold Dr. Pepper each time I read one of these books.
I have not read anything from this author yet, but the series sounds very worthwhile!
Cindy Hipolito
19. mysuccess
Have gotten interested in crime stories away from the major cities. More out in the open part of the country. Thank you for your giveaway!
Cheri Oggy
20. cherio1
I can't wait to read the latest from Mr. Crider!
L Peters
21. leepcat
glad to see another novel from Mr. Crider. thanks
Joyce Benzing
24. zsteelie
Not familiar with Mr. Crider, sounds interesting!!
26. john bailey
Going to check this series out. Love mysteries set in the west and south. Hap&Leonard by Joe Lansdale,Joe Pickett by cj box. Loved trees navarro by rick Riordan, but he seems to have given him up to write young teen novels. Thanks for the tip on another series
love mystery, i would love to win these
29. darobys
This series sounds like it is right up my alley.
Janice Santillo
31. themommazie
Sounds like a really good seies. I'd love to read the books.
32. beedyr
Sounds like my kind of book. Looking forward to reading it.
Irene Menge
33. Goldenmane
This sound like a great series. I can't wait to get started.
Jeffrey Malis
34. bravejam
Looking forward to reading the latest addition to the series... Thanks for the chance!
Nancy Luebke
35. ndluebke
Looks like a very interesting story. Thanks for this opportunity.
39. estarker
Looks like a good read.
Barbara Nolan
41. ellen611
Like Bill Crider books.Would love to win.
Sandy Klocinski
42. SKlocinski
I just love Bill Crider's writing style.
sheron yancey
43. sheron
I haven't read Bill Crider but reading that he was impressed with Robert
Parker makes me want to. These books sound like something I would like to read.
45. Suze
Sheriff Rhodes is a thinking man who is not afraid to use action when it's needed. I've enjoyed reading his crime solving thru the years.
Michael Carter
46. rubydog
Yes, please sign me up for this sweepstakes.
Kim Akers
47. kakers
I haven't read Bill Crider, but after reading this blog, I plan to.
Andra Dalton
48. andra77
So excited after reading this blog entry, can't wait to see how this all ends!!! Love a good mystery!!! Thanks for the opportunity to win & good luck to all who enter!!!:)
50. LabRat517
I've never read Crider but I'm looking forward to trying his writing. I love finding a new series.
52. ellhesmay
Add me to your list of potential winners!! Thanks.
54. stems25
I am a long long time mystery fan and have followed many of my favorite mystery series from beginning to current or often, sadly, to their final ending. I have never read Bill Crider's "Dan Rhodes" mysteries but your article made them - Sheriff Dan - sound like a series I would like to start and also which it seems would last a long long time before I caught up.
v cess
56. AbbieNormal
I have LOTS of favorite the heck did I miss this guy? Bill Crider, I am looking forward to making your acquaintance, Sir!
57. Dale Barkman
I have been reading Bill Crider's books for years and have never been disappointed.
Betty Woodrum
59. BLW
This sounds like a great book~new author to me and I'm always interested in reading works by different authors. Thank you for the chance!
Linda Peters
60. linnett
sound like a good series to read over the summer months, thanks
Leslie Walker
62. ljwalker
I have read Bill Crider's Dan Rhodes for almost 20 years and have loved every story. He is so laid back and has 2 staff member that drive him crazy!
64. Charles Allen Gramlich
Testing to see if I can comment. I've not been able to before. I've read and enjoyed several of Bill's stories, although I need to read some more.
65. Ronnie Ward
Bill Crider is one of my favorite authors. Straight forward story telling and down-to-earth characters. Write on, Bill! Write on!
67. LStirling
I haven't had the pleasure of reading this series yet, but it sounds wonderful. I'd like to get to know Sheriff Rhodes.
Aaron Shapiro
68. shappiesweep
Thanks for this giveaway! Sounds like a good read!
Cindy Hipolito
69. mysuccess
So many new (to me) authors. Always glad to meet another one. Thanks for your giveaway.
Dan Blair
72. thlvlad
Always on the lookout for new authors
Darlene Slocum
75. darandsam
Always looking for a new book to keep me up at night. This one sounds interesting.
kent w. smith
76. bodacious
This sounds like a terrific series that I wasn't aware of. I am so ready!
80. Erica B.
Count me in!
Andrew Beck
82. queerbec
I've been reluctant to read some books in this series, since I didn't know where or how it started. This giveaway would solve that problem with the ebook, and I could get caught up prior to reading 13 and 14.
Saundra K. Warren
83. shortiew
I'm always finding new authors from this page!
84. runner
Groovy Too Late to Die!
Jennifer Jozwiak
86. jennvozik
I wanna win, I need more books to read!!
87. Nikki Davis
I would love these books!

Thank you for the entry,
89. John Moore, III
like to win
Karen Hester
90. rosalba
New series for me - I'd like to explore it.
Sally Winkleblech
92. sallyw
I enjoy following a good character in mysteries, have never tried this series, but will start after reading all the comments.
94. grammypennyann
I haven't read this yet - would love to!!~
John Monahan
96. JohnM
Sounds like a good read. I'm going to check out this series.
97. Julie N
I feel lucky
Carrie Conley
99. weeziestoy
Have not read these....would love to start...
Tricia Andrews
100. Tricia316
I'm looking for some new writers to read! These would be awesome to check out.
Buddy Garrett
103. garrettsambo
It sounds like a great series. Thanks for the giveaway.
104. CherylMc
love to win
105. tiac35
I would like to win this. Seems like a good series to read.
109. Steve Harris
I haven't read this author before, but I checked out his Pop Culture website to find out something about an old Day Keene novel ("If the Coffin Fits") that I had just picked up at a used book store. He has it and has read it! Crider definitely knows his crime fiction. It would be interesting to see how he writes.
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