BILL CRIDER – Booked For a Hanging. Dan Rhodes #6. St. Martin’s, hardcover, 1992. No paperback edition.

   I like Bill’s P.I., Truman Smith, and I enjoyed The Texas Capitol Murders, but I’m mighty glad to see my old friend Sheriff Dan Rhodes again. There are more and more people mining the rural vein, but nobody does it better than Bill Crider.

   Rhodes is married now, to a lady he met in an earlier case. Otherwise, life goes on pretty much as usual around the Blacklin Country Sheriff’s Department Oh, yes — they do have a new computer, which has been appropriated by Hack the dispatcher, who seems to regard it as he would his first grandchild.

   The book opens with the discovery of the hanged body of a rare book dealer, who owned some buildings in the neighboring small town of Obert. It’s fairly obvious that it’s murder, and as it develops that the dead man was rumored to have possession of an extremely rare book, there’s at least one possible motive. His partner, his lover, and another rare book dealer are present to complicate the case, and before things shake out two more people are dead.

   As always with the Rhodes books, there are numerous other things going on. This time they include a librarian out to save the world from censorship, a semi-naked man inhabiting a local dumpster, and a little minor league cattle rustling. All the regulars are present, including the aforementioned Hack, Lawton, the jailer, and Ruth, the lady deputy introduced a couple of books ago.

   Folks, I was raised in a small Texas town, and I’m here to tell you that he’s got it down. I know the phrase is overworked, but there isn’t a more apt one: these are real people. I do have one small reservation, though — Dan Rhodes is a hell of a lot nicer than any rural Sheriff I ever knew.

   Bill’s style is perfectly suited to the material; wryly humorous, straightforward, and unobtrusive. The atmosphere strikes a nice balance between lighthearted and serious, but you won’t go away from a Dan Rhodes book feeling down. Long may he be Sheriff.

— Reprinted from Fireman, Fireman, Save My Books #4, November 1992.