EDWARD MATHIS – From a High Place. Dan Roman #1. Charles Scribner’s Sons, hardcover, 1985. Ballantine, paperback; 1st printing, July 1987.

   Edward Mathis died at the relatively young age of 61 in 1988. He started late, but once he got going, he must have been a very fast writer, because four of the eight recorded cases of Texas PI Dan Roman must have gotten backed up at Scribner’s at the time of his death and were never published until two or three more years had gone by.

   From a High Place is the first of the series and the first I’ve read. In large part it’s a personal affair, since the man whose death he’s asked to investigate lived in Roman’s home town of Butler Wells. His widow was Roman’s high school teacher. The death has been written off as an accident, but since her husband had a severe case of acrophobia, she wonders what he was doing at the top of cliff he fell from.

   Revisiting his home town in many years also brings back many memories, almost all of them centered on the glory days of high school — good buddies, football, and the girl who introduced him to the delights of sex — one never-to-be-forgotten night only.

   Roman’s life has not been a happy since then. Both his wife and son have died, leaving him a loner, for example, and who could blame him for the moodiness that sometimes seems to swallow him up? Life in a small Texas town can also be a lot more complicated than an outsider could ever imagine, and this is depicted well.

   I think, though, that 278 pages (in the paperback edition) is a little too long for a case that should take a lot less time than that to tell. A little leaner story might have helped, in my opinion, but given how it all comes out, Mathis knew what he had in mind all along. As I say, it’s a moody, nostalgic kind of tale, and if that’s right up your alley, this is exactly the book for you.

      The Dan Roman series —

From a High Place (1985).

Dark Streaks and Empty Places (1986).
Natural Prey (1987).
Another Path, Another Dragon (1988).

The Burned Woman (1989).
Out of the Shadows (1990).

September Song (1991).
The Fifth Level (1992)