MURDER AMONG OWLS by Bill Crider
The only series I read regularly are those that offer worlds I want to visit. This may be because before I began reading mysteries reguarly I read science fiction. World building is critical in sf and fantasy.
And it is in mystery fiction, too. Sherlock Holmes. Agatha Christie. John Dickson Carr. Indelible worlds. Or Mr. and Mrs. North. Craig Rice's various detectives working out of Chicago. Hammett, Chandler, Chester Himes' Harlem novels.
And Bill Crider's small town Texas series, the latest of which is MURDER AMONG OWLS (St. Martin's, $23.95) This time Sheriff Dan Rhodes has to decide whether Helen Harris' death was accidental or criminal. At certain points in his investigation his deputies are his biggest hindrance to solving what is now clearly a crime. Wizards they're not.
Any novel that references the Warner Bros. cartoon icon Pepe Le Pew on the third page is a can't miss reading exprience for me. And Crider does this as he does everything else--nice and easy. The sentences and the scenes flow so gracefully you might overlook the difficulty of keeping the writing so spot-on.
If you think Andy Griffith of Mayberry with an edge and a tart tongue you'll have a good sense of of the world Crider creates in these fine books. He's admirably unsentimental about his town and its people, seeing them for what they are. The good ones are good without being saints, the bad ones are bad without being Hannibal Lechter. Real people doing real people things.
Two highlights--the dog who's scared of the cat and a hilarious chain saw chase between a lunatic and his seventy-something would-be prey. I've never read this scene in any form anywhere else before. It is pure Crider and the essence of his best work.
You'll like Rhodes and his town. And for sure you'll want to come back for more.