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Nights of the Red Moon
Sheriff Bo Handel series, No 2
Milton T. Burton

Minotaur Books
2010 / ISBN 9780312648008
Police Procedural / Caddo County, TX / Contemporary

Reviewed by LJ Roberts

First Sentence: Shortly before sunup on a hot, dry morning in early September of this past year, Amanda Willer, the local Methodist preacher’s wife, was slaughtered and then dumped in front of the church parsonage.`

Nothing is simple anymore. Sheriff Bo Handle certainly did not expect the murder of the minister’s wife. Even less did he expect it would end up being a multi-agency investigation involving local criminals, drug lords and the New Orleans Mafia. So much for the simple life of East Texas.

Even being the second book in the series, Burton takes the time to introduce his protagonist with a fully-developed backstory, look, trademark and philosophy. Rather than seeming redundant, it re-ignites interest in the character. It is also nice to have protagonists who get hungry and tired; normal people rather than super-heroes even if the book makes you hungry right along with Handel.

Sheriff Bo Handle is an engaging protagonist. He’s old enough to have solid experience, not too old to have a lady friend, and isn’t above a little “quid pro forever” blackmail. He knows the value of interagency cooperation and is more interested in solving the crime than claiming the glory. Through him the author also conveys a wry sense of humor…”He turned his head a little to look at Toby. “I can’t help noticing that you’re black.” [Sipes] said. We were both startled by such an oddball remark, but Toby recovered quickly and looked at me and said, “What’s he saying, boss?” I nodded sadly. “It’s a fact, Toby. We’ve tried to keep it from you, but…”; that also includes delightful literary references.

The books provide an excellent depiction of a small, bible-belt town, whether set in East Texas or anywhere, where people are known by to which church they belong. There is a sense of timelessness to these communities, yet they contain all the contemporary problems and crimes of any urban area. Burton does an excellent job conveying this dichotomy. The story is told with a first-person point of view which works very well. The plot is built layer upon layer, a little over-complicated at times, but still surprising the reader each step along the way.

The only disappointment is in the extensive use of portents, none of which was necessary; all of which could have been eliminated and improved the flow of the story. Even with that flaw, Burton is an author whose writing is admirable. Nights of the Red Moon, along with his previous books, are well deserving of a permanent place in one’s library.

Reviewed 2011
© 2011