Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Evil at the Root: Bill Crider


From the dust jacket:
In this latest Sheriff Dan Rhodes adventure, Bill Crider sends the small-town Texas lawman to investigate the apparent theft of a set of false teeth from one of the elderly residents of the Sunny Dale Nursing Home. The case, which begins as one merely embarrassing ("Ah ain't got no TEEF!") quickly turns serious when the owner of the missing dentures, one Lloyd Bobbit, is found suffocated with a plastic grocery bag.
The prime suspect is a fellow Sunny Daler, Maurice Kennedy, who was known to have had no love for the cantankerous Bobbit—a feud that originated way, way back in the youth of the two men. Now Kennedy is missing —but is he the killer or another victim?
A secondary plot line involves a lawsuit against the sheriff, Hack the dispatcher and Lawton the jailer regarding alleged bad conditions at the county jail. The suit accuses those three men of neglect and charges that the county does not provide prisoners with adequate area to exercise, heating, cooling, plumbing, and the roof leaks. The county does need better facilities, but the charge of neglect is obviously untrue.

I always enjoy returning to the world of Sheriff Dan Rhodes and his friends, family, and coworkers. In this book, Rhodes muses quite a bit about old age and nursing homes. He has to buy himself a pair of reading glasses, which he has been avoiding for too long. He worries about his weight. Rhodes is a widower with a 24-year-old daughter, and plans to marry Ivy Daniels, also widowed. As in the previous books, the relationship fits in nicely with the story.

Rhodes and Ivy plan to be married at the courthouse, but, at one week until the ceremony, Rhodes has not even decided on the time of day or given any thought to where they will go for a honeymoon. How Ivy puts up with him I do not know, but they are clearly meant for each other. There is a charming scene where they are looking up records related to his current case in the courthouse records and he brings her pimiento cheese sandwiches for dinner. "My favorite," she says, and it is hard to tell whether she is being sincere or not.

[A side note: Pimiento cheese is a Southern specialty, not widely appreciated elsewhere. I do not approve of Rhodes' recipe for pimiento cheese, as he specifies American cheese, not cheddar. However, I am sure I would be happy to have a pimiento cheese sandwich made by Dan Rhodes. On the internet you mostly find information about pimento cheese, but Bill Crider and I both spell it with the second "i".  See this article.]

Hack and Lawton provide some comic moments when they tease Sheriff Rhodes by making him pull information out of them. Quite realistic, no doubt, but I find it more irritating than humorous. This is probably my only complaint about the series.

The Sheriff Dan Rhodes series is a cozyish version of the police procedural genre. Rhodes' detection is based more on intuition and knowledge of people than the use of forensics or databases. The fun is in following the sheriff's investigation and seeing what difficulties he runs into before the facts all fall together before the (usually) unexpected conclusion. He does tend to forget about his own safety and go out on his own too much, running into violent altercations quite often. In this case he gets beaten up pretty severely, twice, both times having to spend a night in the hospital.

Another thing I love about the series is the references to old movies and old (and new) mystery novels. Here, Rhodes falls asleep watching Sherlock Holmes and the Spider Woman, which we just watched in early October. His friend Clyde Ballinger, the funeral director, has a collection of old mystery paperbacks. In this book he mentions The Lady Kills (1951) by Bruno Fischer and Drive East on 66 (1961) by Richard Wormser, which I had recently read about at Col's Criminal Library. Bill Crider is an avid collector of paperbacks, mostly mystery fiction.

This is the fifth book in Bill Crider's longest running series; there are a total of 24 books, and the latest book was published this year. Evil at the Root was published in 1990, and although computers were certainly used in police investigations back then, they were not as prevalent. So I am interested in seeing how Rhodes gradually adapts to the use of technology as the books move forward.

This Friday, December 15th, will be Bill Crider Day at Patti Abbott's Friday's Forgotten Books at Pattinase this Friday. Please check out other posts there.

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Publisher:   St. Martin's Press, 1990
Length:      214 pages
Format:      Hardcover
Series:       Sheriff Dan Rhodes, #5
Setting:      Texas
Genre:        Police Procedural
Source:      I purchased my copy.
Dust jacket painting by Lars Hokanson.


27 comments:

  1. Your previous mentions have made me determined to read one of these books soon...

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    1. I look forward to seeing what you think of it, Moira. Crider has written two shorter series set in college environments and a PI series set in Galveston, Texas that I want to read also.

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  2. Not only is Crider a talented author (which he is), but also a delightful person. I'm very glad to see you highlight one of his books here, Tracy. And I'm glad Patti's featuring his work, too.

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    1. I agree, Margot, I look forward to seeing the other posts that will be at Patti's blog on Friday.

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  3. I like this one in the series, though I'll admit to sharing your irritation with the co-workers at times. Rhodes himself is quite a character, and the books great fun. As you said, the author is also a wonderful man, and writer. Great choice, Tracy.

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    1. Thanks, Rick. I have the next one in the series and hope to read it soon. Reading these is like getting together with family and friends.

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  4. I feel so out of the CF loop...I've never heard of Bill Crider! Enjoyed your reveiw and will have a look at 'Pattinase' and start a book by this author! I'm trying to create a TBR list for 2018 and will have a look at your list for some 'gems'.!

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    1. Nancy, in addition to mysteries, Crider has written some horror, some Westerns, and two children's books. Except for the horror genre, I am interested in trying all of them.

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  5. Not read this one - sounds great - and love the Sherlock Holmes reference of course!

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    1. Of course, Sergio. I have some of the later ones but I would rather read in order. We will see.

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  6. Wonderful review of one of Bill Crider's most enjoyable books!

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    1. Thanks, George, I agree. I enjoy his humor very much.

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  7. Been quite a while since I've had pimento cheese

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    1. It is a wonderful food (when home made), Charles. A few years ago my sister made some when I was visiting Alabama, and rekindled my love of it.

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  8. Haven't read this one yet, Tracy. But it's on the list. I am going to enjoy myself reading right through the Dan Rhodes series over the next couple of months.

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    1. I think it will take me longer than a couple of months, Yvette, but I plan to move through them as fast as I can.

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  9. P.S. That cover certainly gives one to think. :)

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    1. It does. The man with the gun sort of fits with the story, but I am very fond of the illustration, regardless.

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  10. Hello Tracy -- at what address, electronic or physical, might I contact you about a possible book review? ~ Anna

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  11. I cringed when I got to the pimiento cheese sandwiches, Tracy, as my mom used to make me pimiento/baloney sandwiches when I worked my summer jobs. I don't believe I've ever eaten them since. But I'll bet Rhodes and Ivy would love them!

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    1. I laughed when I read your comment, Mathew. I don't even remember if I liked pimiento cheese as a child, but I sure do now. I do remember having baloney sandwiches and fried baloney sandwiches too.

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  12. TracyK: I enjoyed your review. I am not familiar with Bill Crider. I should read one of his mysteries.

    I did find poignant reading his last post on his blog after seeing a reference in The Rap Sheet that he was going into hospice care.

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    1. Thank you, Bill. I think you would enjoy one of Crider's mysteries, should you read one.

      His last post was very affecting, and his thoughts on not being able to review the last books he read were so unselfish.

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  13. Great post Tracy, and very sad news about his health. I do have another of his books to read on the pile and maybe ought to seek out one from the Dan Rhodes series.

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    1. It is sad, Col. The Dan Rhodes series may not be for you, but it wouldn't hurt to try one. And I need to try some of his other books like Westerns. Maybe not Horror though.

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  14. What a fine post, Tracy. Right now I am not starting on any new series otherwise I would have have started this one.

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    1. Thanks very much, neer. I sympathize with not starting new series, I have too many going myself right now.

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