BILL CRIDER – Murder Among the OWLS. St. Martin’s Press, hardcover, 2007. Worldwide, paperback, January 2008.

   OWLS in this case is spelled correctly. It’s an acronym for Old Women’s Literary Society, an organization in Clearview Texas of which the murder victim in this book was a member, the book being the 14th of what is currently 23 novels in Bill Crider’s Sheriff Dan Rhodes series of low-key and semi-homespun mysteries.

   He’s actually the sheriff of Blacklin County. I’m not sure if Clearview is the county seat or not, but it’s where both Rhodes and Helen Harris live, close enough that when she is killed in her own home, her cat wanders off and ends up at Rhodes’ back door, to the consternation of at least one of the Rhodes’s two dogs.

   And while trying to find Mrs. Harris’s killer, Rhodes also finds himself trying to find a new home for “Sam” as Ivy (Mrs. Rhodes) has already renamed him. If this makes Murder Among the OWLS sound like a cozy to you, I’d have to agree with you, but it’s one with a bit of an edge to it. While pursuing his sheriffing duties, Rhodes does meet up with a man with a gun (and earlier on, an angry man with a working chain saw).

   But Murder Among the OWLS is also a detective puzzle, and a good one, well-clued but with the clues hidden well enough that with only ten pages to go, Rhodes still doesn’t know who the killer is. In those ten pages. though, a lot of things he’s noticed in his investigation finally come together, just as they should.

   Most importantly, though, in makes this book a “fun read” — there’s no other way to put it — are the people that Rhodes meets along the way, new ones as well as those he’s already friends and neighbors with. No fancy rich folks among them, no fancy talk, but people you can recognize and relate to, even the killer — ones you might meet in your own home town or neighborhood, unless you’re a millionaire and travel in circles that I never will, whether you’re from Texas or not.

UPDATE. 15 December 2017.   This review first appeared on this blog on 19 November 2015. It has been reposted here today as part of a massive tribute to Bill Crider as part of Patti Abbott’s weekly Friday’s Forgotten Books posts. Follow the link to an Internet-wide collection of reviews of Bill’s books and thoughts and memories of him. He recently has had to give up his own blog and entered hospice care. I’ve known Bill through fanzines, letters and email for something like 40 years, and it doesn’t seem nearly long enough.