Saturday, February 26, 2011
Reviewing: "Nights of the Red Moon: A Mystery" by Milton T. Burton
Milton T. Burton’s third novel sets the stage for a series with a rock solid foundation, interesting characters, and a complex case. Sheriff Bo Handel has been the strong, and at times compassionate, arm of the law in Caddo County, Texas for nearly thirty years. Forty miles away from the Louisiana border and half that north of Nacogdoches, the county is fairly quiet though there have been strange events over the years. With a drought and heat wave gripping the state and painting the Texas moon blood red, Sheriff Bo Handel knows the Cherokees were right to fear such times as periods of madness and death.
It was some time on an early September morning that Amanda Twiller, wife of the local Methodist preacher, was murdered and then dumped on the front lawn of the parsonage. Shot three times in the back, her body has been left like trash out on the lawn for one and all passing by to see. Including her husband, who found her just after dawn and called it in. While the fact she is dead is not a surprise, the actual manner of her death is a little bit. In the three short years that Reverend Bobby Joe Twiller and Amanda had been in town, she had made quite a name for herself as an adulteress, prescription drug addict, and a few other things before running off with Emmet Zorn, owner of a local liquor store. None of that explains why the FBI in the form of two agents is also present at the local crime scene.
Agents Muldoon and Hotchkiss of the FBI are interested because Emmet Zorn has links to organized crime down in Houston. Their agenda is to get evince against Emmet Zorn and leveraging him to talk about those higher up the food chain. What starts as a simple local murder case quickly puts a personal and professional strain on Sheriff Bo Handel. He doesn't care about the federal government, inter-agency cooperation, or why it all matters in the world. He just wants the actual killer brought to justice. Along the way, if he can, he will help others and try to stem the rising tide of collateral damage in his county where outside forces are turning the county into their personal turf war.
Author Milton T. Burton’s latest effort after The Rogues Game and The Sweet and the Dead is a powerful, and at times, dark mystery set in East Texas. Sort of a weird cross between the style of Bill Crider and Joe Landsdale, this is a powerfully good noir style cozy. Borderline graphic at times, full of dark nuance and meaning, the book moves quickly through its 294 pages to a powerful resolution with no easy answers.
Along the way the complex character of Sheriff Bo Handel as well as numerous major and minor secondary characters comes alive for the reader. Plenty of East Texas history is woven into the tale in such a way that by the end of the book, the very county itself fully exists as a character in its own right and is lodged in your mind. Couple all that with plenty of action, mystery, suspense, a hint of romance, and the result is a breakout book for Texan Milton T. Burton. While you do have to wait for a sequel, there is this one and his two others if he is new to you. If he isn't new to you and you have not read it yet, what are you waiting for?
Nights of the Red Moon: A Mystery
Milton T. Burton
A Thomas Dunne Book (Minotaur Books)
Hardback (available on Kindle)
Material supplied by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System.
Kevin R. Tipple © 2011