TOO LATE TO DIE by Bill Crider
I love Bill Crider’s Sheriff Dan Rhodes mysteries. They double as an engaging read as well as a tour through the backwoods country towns I grew up in. I loved growing up there, and Bill mentions all the reasons why in this ebook of the first novel of the series: hamburger baskets with greasy paper, Dr Pepper, feral pigs, and neighbors who know you.
I’d read this novel years ago when it came out in the 1980s and enjoyed it a lot, but it’s been out of print for a while and finding copies of something I read so long ago becomes problematic, so I was happy to discover the first two Rhodes books are now out in e-print. Hopefully the others that haven’t been released in ebook format will be released soon.
Bill’s books always stay busy, and it’s a lot of fun watching Sheriff Rhodes struggle with everything that’s going on. Rhodes is a simple guy just doing a job the best he knows how to, but in small town Texas, you get some weird calls: like a woman who wants a skunk taken out from under her house, like a parrot that gets stuck in a tree, like a hippie going around opening ranch gates because cows deserve to be free.
This book opens in the middle of Rhodes’s campaign to get re-elected as sheriff, something that is not a foregone conclusion because he’s up against some stiff competition. While he’s listening to the details of small thefts from the local grocery store owner, a guy arrives and tells him a local woman has been murdered.
Rhodes’s investigation doesn’t compare to the CSI bling you see on television, but the sheriff gets the job done. Not only that, but Bill plays fair with all his readers: the clues the reader needs to solve the mystery are there in the story, and when he puts the pieces together it makes sense.
In addition to the mystery, there’s also a lot of action, a car chase, and a trek through dangerous woods filled with feral pigs. Bill has a keen eye for description of these areas, and anyone who’s been in the backcountry will envision those scenes easily, as well as taste the crushed rock dust and heavy pollen that lingers in the air.
Blacklin County comes alive in Bill’s books, and after you’ve been there a time or two through his books, returning again is easy. It’s just like going down home.