The second book in Bill Crider’s series about Texas Sheriff Dan Rhodes is as good as the first. There’s a murder to be solved, and Rhodes is on the case, while also dealing with a number of eccentricities in their area.
Bert Ramsey is a local handyman who is dependable, reliable, and well-thought-of. When he’s found murdered, Sheriff Rhodes begins his investigation. The Sheriff and Bert recently interacted when Bert found amputated body parts near some brush he was clearing. A tattoo on Bert reveals he was once part of the Los Muertos Motorcycle Gang, not known for having a presence in these parts. What’s more is that Bert’s girlfriend, Wyneva Greer, seems to have found a new boyfriend very quickly.
Rhodes is sheriff in Blacklin County, a rural area that doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that big-city police departments have. He has to uncover the mystery using old-fashioned police work, which is mostly talking to people face to face and gauging reactions. Is Bert’s death related to the gang he was once a part of? Does it have to do with the body parts he found? Or was it a lover’s quarrel with Wyneva wanting him out of the way so she could move on?
I really enjoyed Shotgun Saturday Night. There’s a great murder mystery at the center of the story, but the day-to-day business of a rural sheriff is also there. It’s different than a city where there’s a homicide division that just deals with one thing. Rhodes must contend with all of that while working to solve the murder, which is a nice break at times. The widowed Rhodes has also begun a relationship with Ivy Daniel. He’s trying to figure out what to do about that, as well.
The book was first published in 1987, so there are some things that are dated. The police don’t have cell phones to contact people, so Rhodes’ trips around town trying to catch people at home or find them elsewhere involve a lot of legwork. He’s also dealing with a first for his department: a new female deputy.
I enjoyed reading this, though. Rhodes is a man of conviction and doesn’t rush off trying to be a cowboy. His investigation is paced well, with a sense of urgency, but also with the patience to let things fall into place. The pace of the book was well-executed as well. It wasn’t a long read, but I found it fun and easy with a mystery that took me some time to figure out. The characters are well thought out without being cartoonish. There’s no bad guy lurking in the shadows twirling his mustache. The people here are parts of everyday life in a world that doesn’t seem to exist anymore, where the police didn’t see everyone in their community as the enemy.
Shotgun Saturday Night is a good, easy read. If you’re looking for a good mystery in a series you might not have checked out just yet, I recommend it. Although I did read the previous book in the series, I do think this stands on its own nicely if you haven’t.
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