Shotgun Saturday Night has a great opening line:
Sheriff Dan Rhodes knew it was going to be a bad day when Bert Ramsey brought in the arm and laid it on the desk. ...
“Got another one out in the truck,” Bert said around the wad of snuff he had tucked between his cheek and gum on the left side of his mouth. “Got a couple of legs, too, but they don’t match up with each other.”
Bert Ramsey was a short, wiry man with a sun- and wind-burned face. Rhodes had once seen a briefcase made of industrial belting leather. Ramsey’s face looked as if it were made of the same material.It soon appears that the severed limbs are not related to a crime, or at least not to a murder. But then Bert Ramsey is shot dead with a shotgun on Saturday night while Sheriff Dan Rhodes is playing Buddy Holly records for his lady friend, Ivy Daniel. That is when the real investigation begins.
Published in 1987, this is the second in a series of twenty-two novels set in fictional Blacklin County, Texas. The twenty-second book was just released on August 11th. I reviewed the first book in the series, Too Late to Die, here.
Shotgun Saturday Night moves at a faster pace than the first book, with action throughout. But the book remains a picture of small communities full of interesting, quirky characters. There are the men who work with Rhodes: Hack Jensen, the dispatcher, and Lawton, the jailer. Both are older and set in their ways. Ruth Grady has just joined the group as the new deputy. She has to convince Hack and Lawton that a woman can do the job.
The main character is Rhodes, and we are let in on a lot of his musings about his life, his job, and his possible future with Ivy Daniel. The romance with Ivy might be irritating (at least to me) except for the fact that she gets involved in the investigation in a realistic way. The story has the perfect amount of humor, low-key, not the laugh out loud type.
There are so many touches I love in this book. A dog is orphaned and Rhodes takes him in. He doesn't have much experience with taking care of a dog, but he learns. He loves old movies and watches the Million Dollar Movie at lunch time. And since I love barbecue, and I understand the reverence for real barbecue in the southern US states, I loved the scene set in Lester's BBQ joint. I have never been to a place quite that rustic, but I would go if I have a chance.
Lester’s was just on the outskirts of Clearview. It was not fancy enough to be called a restaurant, or even a café. Lester’s was a barbecue joint, and it looked the part.
When Rhodes and Ivy drove up there were three cars and a pickup parked in front of what looked like an old house in poor repair. It had once been painted green, but that had been years ago. It had a slight list to the left, as if someone very large had given it a shove. In front was a piece of plywood on which someone had printed in black paint, with a very wide brush and an unsteady hand: LESTERS BBQ. As Hack had once told Rhodes, “Lester don’t believe in puttin’ up a front.”The food is simple but good, and Rhodes always drinks a Dr. Pepper with it. My son and I are fans of Dr. Pepper too. I love barbecue but Alabama barbecue is the best.
I have talked so much about the little things that you may think there is no murder investigation going on here. There is and it is complex with twists and turns. Rhodes thinks he knows his county but he discovers crimes and criminals he had not been aware of. He gets involved with motorcycle gangs and FBI investigations. One Goodreads reviewer described this book as an "almost-cosy police procedural." I agree with that, but the ruthless motorcycle gang members do move it a good ways away from cozy.
I already have the latest books in the series, except for the most recent one, but I really think I want to read this series as much in order as I can. The series was published through the years when computers were coming into more and more common usage, so it will be interesting to see how Crider handles this.
Publisher: Walker and Company, 1987
Length: 185 pages
Series: Dan Rhodes #2
Genre: Police Procedural
Source: I purchased my copy.