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Of All Sad Words
Sheriff Dan Rhodes mystery series, book # 15

by Bill Crider

      It seems like the elected officials of Blacklin County, Texas have way too much time on their hands and spend it taking cheap shots at Sheriff Dan Rhodes. He is being hounded by a commissioner to get the department website up and running, and criticized by a local judge for creating a vigilante mentality among the locals by putting on a "Citizenís Sheriff Academy."

Mercifully, he is called to duty when an explosion destroys a mobile home outside of town.† Rhodeís investigation turns up the body of Terry Crawford, one of the trailerís occupants. The sheriff immediately suspects foul play because explosions donít usually produce bullet holes in their victims. Terryís brother Larry, the other resident, wasnít at home at the time. As the sheriff surveys the crime scene he spots a still and a fresh batch of moonshine in a small wooded area just outside the mobile home. Larry blames it all on his deceased brother.

Next door neighbor C.P. "Seepy" Benton, a recently transplanted math teacher, has long suspected that the Crawford brothers were up to no good and, as a graduate of the Citizenís Sheriff Academy, is convinced that he can be of great help in solving the murder.† Sheriff Rhodes isnít so sure.

With the limited resources of a small department, the Sheriff is not able to assign a deputy to babysit the still while he makes arrangements to confiscate it and when he returns to the scene, the still, and his evidence, has disappeared.

The investigation eventually leads to a restaurant that was frequented by the Crawford brothers and is suspected of serving the illegal alcohol. While Rhodes is interviewing the restaurant owner in the parking lot, a speeding pickup truck rolls in off of the highway, wreaking havoc and sending everyone diving for cover. The truck rams the restaurant owner into the side of a dumpster, killing him and then roars out of the parking lot leaving Sheriff Rhodes injured on the ground. Once again the evidence is gone.

Rhodes is not a quitter and he tenaciously pursues all leads, including the ones provided by Seepy, the strange math teacher. But all the while the county officials continue to hound him over menial and unimportant tasks. And Rhodes canít ignore his responsibility to maintain law and order in the county. His job is sizable.

Eventually, Rapper and Nellie, a couple of very bad characters from the past, surface on the scene and the pieces begin to fall into place. Rapper is definitely the kind of guy who would use a pickup truck as a weapon.

This is the fifteenth Dan Rhodes mystery novel in Bill Criderís series. Itís actually the first one that Iíve read and I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it.† Although murder is decidedly a dark subject, Criderís treatment is bright and sometimes quite humorous.† The trivial stuff that a small town Sheriff deals with on a daily basis doesnít diminish just because thereís been a murder. The Sheriff is expected to stay on top of things like possums under porches and UFOs hovering over back yards while heís trying to track down the bad guys.† And Rhodes does a credible job; he even manages to attend a book signing and get a fire lit under the departmentís website. Read it; youíll like it.

The Book

St Martinís Minotaur
February 19, 2008
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The Reviewer

Dennis Collins
Reviewed 2009
NOTE: Reviewer Dennis Collins is the author of The Unreal McCoy and the second installment in this series, Turn Left at September. He's also's "Between the Pages" columnist, covering the mystery genre and related topics.
© 2009