Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Death on the Move: Bill Crider

Dan Rhodes is the Sheriff of Blacklin County, Texas. In this role, he is kept busy dealing with the smaller problems in his jurisdiction, and sometimes he even has to deal with more serious crimes like murder. In Death on the Move, jewelry is disappearing off bodies prepared for burial at the funeral home in Clearview. Rhodes is well-acquainted with the funeral director, Clyde Ballinger, whose hobby is collecting old paperback books, mostly westerns and mysteries. Then one of his deputies, Ruth Grady, calls his attention to a possible problem of thefts at some homes built around a lake. When they go to investigate, they find several homes that have been totally emptied of furniture and appliances. The homes are mostly lived in only on the weekends, leaving plenty of time for thieves to come in and empty them out. In the second home they look at, a more serious situation is discovered; a dead body is found stuffed in a closet.
"It wasn't really a mummy, of course, though Rhodes's first thought had been of Boris Karloff chasing after Zita Johann. This was even worse–a real human being, or what had once been a human being, completely wrapped up in silver duct tape."
Thus the sheriff must find out who is robbing the homes of their contents, and who killed the woman and wrapped her up like a mummy, and if the crimes are connected.


This series comes close to being in the cozy genre, the difference being that the protagonist is a sheriff and he is supposed to be looking into the crime and he can ask questions directly because it is his job. And he has access to other police departments and more tools that can actually help him find the criminals.

However, in Dan Rhodes' case, he is allergic to the idea of using computers, or possibly just afraid of them. Hack Jensen, the elderly dispatcher at the county jail, keeps hinting that access to a computer would make his work go better, but Rhodes is in no hurry to modernize their office. Rhodes' detection is based more on intuition and knowledge of people than the use of forensics or databases.

This is a quiet story. There is not a lots of action involved in the investigation, but the story moves along at a nice pace. Rhodes' relationship with Ivy, his fiancé, inches forward. I like Ivy; she is forthright without being pushy. She accepts Rhodes for what is he. And she helps out here and there in investigations, in a realistic way.

There are so many touches I love in this fourth book in the Sheriff Dan Rhodes series. Speedo, the dog, was orphaned in Shotgun Saturday Night, the second book, and Rhodes took him in. Rhodes loves old movies and watches the Million Dollar Movie at lunch time. This book is chock full of references to vintage paperback novels and old movies, even more than previous books in the series. Crider gives the reader an interesting picture of small-town life in Texas and the story is told with low-key humor.

This post was written for the Small-town Sheriffs / Cops theme at Patti Abbott's Friday's Forgotten Books meme for April 15th.

Below is a list of the three earlier books in the series with links to my reviews...

1. Too Late to Die (1986)
2. Shotgun Saturday Night (1987)
3. Cursed to Death (1988)

Please check out Curtis Evans' review of A Mammoth Murder, the thirteenth book in the series, which he calls "a southern country cozy." Curtis blogs at The Passing Tramp.


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Publisher:   Ivy Books, 1990 (orig. pub. 1989)
Length:      184 pages
Format:      Paperback
Series:       Sheriff Dan Rhodes #4
Setting:      Texas
Genre:        Police Procedural
Source:      I purchased my copy.


20 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. You are welcome, Bill, all the kind words are deserved. My only regret is that I did not read these earlier, but now I have the fun of catching up.

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  2. This is definitely a good series, Tracy, and I think it doesn't always get the attention it deserves. I'm glad you highlighted this one. It reminds me, too, that I want to put a Dan Rhodes novel in the spotlight at some point.

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    1. It is a good series, Margot. A spotlight on a Dan Rhodes novel would be good.

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  3. Thanks for the review, Tracy. Another reminder that I should read Bill Crider's work and especially his Dan Rhodes series.

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    1. I will keep reminding you, Prashant. I have the next two in the series, and I also have some of the more recent books, so I will be reading more of them.

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  4. Small town sheriffs/cops stories are a favorite of mine. Will need to add Bill Crider to my list of authors to try. Have you read Jim Thompson yet? He wrote a couple of noir novels that featured cops/sheriffs in small towns except that the sheriff and cops were people you ran away from in Thompson's world....--Keishon

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    1. Keishon, I have not read any of Jim Thompson's book yet, but I plan to. The only one I have now is The Getaway, but I want to read Pop. 1280 and The Killer Inside Me ... but not The Grifters. I saw that movie and not going to read the book.

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    2. I haven't read The Grifters yet or watched the movie. Your negative response is intriguing.

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    3. The Grifters film is very good but very dark and I could not take the ending. I heard that the book is even darker, so I will take a pass. (but I can always change my mind later.)

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  5. Sheriff Dan Rhodes is one of my heroes--so is Bill Crider!

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    1. I agree with you, Caroline. On both.

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  6. I keep hearing about this author on blogs, but haven't read him. I think he is not so well-known in the UK, and hard to get hold of. But your recommendation is very tempting.

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    1. I am definitely hooked on this series, Moira, and want to try more of his writing. I think in this case it is the characters and the world that Crider has created that keeps bringing me back.

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  7. I'm glad you're enjoying this series, but I'll have to pass on it. Too much already on the piles. I have another Ellie Taine book by him, so will settle for that!

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    1. I do know about having too many books, Col, but I have a few "new" authors that I am collecting more books by: Crider, and Anthony Price, and Victor Canning.

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  8. Looking forward to getting to this one, Tracy. After three spread thru the order, I'm going to read the rest in sequence.

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    1. I am going in order of publication too, Mathew. I have the next two, and hope to pick up more of the earlier books at the book sale (not til September). I really want to try the series set in Galveston too.

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  9. I love the dog's name! Speedo. :) I was just reading another review of a Bill Crider book over at Matt Paust's blog and I'm sure it is definitely past time that I got acquainted with this series. :)

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    1. I agree, Yvette, this is a series you should try. Matt's review of the previous book in the series was fun and had some good quotes.

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