Friday, July 03, 2015

FFB Review: "Gator Kill: A Truman Smith Mystery" by Bill Crider

Another Friday is upon us and this happens to fall right before Independence Day tomorrow. Please remember not only the meaning of the day, but what my Mom often said no matter what we were doing when we were growing up--- STOP! You’ll Put Your Eye Out!!! Celebrate responsibly, stay intact, and make sure you capture that cell phone footage for later viewing by the media. Before doing all that, make sure that you first check out the rest of the books suggested over on Patti Abbott’s blog.

After the events in Dead on the Island private investigator Truman Smith has not been doing much of any investigating. Instead, he has been primarily house painting over on Galveston Island. He is aware that hiding away on the island painting a house here and there does little more than earn him some bucks and passes the time. So, when Fred Benton called and asked him to come about a dead alligator Truman was interested inspite of himself.

Fred Benton has a lot of acreage over by Eagle Lake outside of Houston. A lot of his land is thickly forested and swampy and is a natural home to gators. That is a good thing as he loves alligators beyond all reason. It is September, hot and humid, and somebody went and killed one of the many alligators that live on his land. Not only did they break the law by killing it on his land without permission, the person sent him a clear message in the way they did it. The creature was killed, skinned and left allowing the meat to rot. In Fred Barton’s view, what was done was murder and he wants the killer caught and punished.

Back when Truman was investigating as a private investigator, chasing murders wasn’t something he usually did. Benton does not care as he figures finding missing people was what Truman did and certainly somebody is missing---- the gator killer. As he puts it to Truman:

“What’s the difference? If you’re lookin’ for somebody, you’re lookin’ for somebody.” (Page 8)

While Truman thinks it is far more complicated than that he eventually agrees to look into the matter with no guarantees. He will soon come to regret that decision because of the time he has to spend out in the swamp fighting the heat, the bugs, the mud, and the smells. Digging a bullet out of a dead alligator is not fun either. All that and then the murders start.

Gator Kill: A Truman Smith Mystery was originally published in 1992 and follows Dead on the Island. Events from the previous book are briefly mentioned in the opening pages of this complex mystery and serve as a foundation of sorts for Truman’s taking the case. A case that is rather complicated and takes a number of twists and turns before things are finally resolved. Very different from and darker in tone than the author’s Sheriff Rhodes series (Between The Living And The Dead: A Dan Rhodes Mystery is coming out August 11th) the read features a slew of interesting characters, plenty of action and clues, and a case that has no easy answers. Gator Kill: A Truman Smith Mystery is a good one. 

Gator Kill: A Truman Smith Mystery
Bill Crider
Walker and Company (subsidiary of Bloomsbury Publishing)
May 1992
ISBN# 0-8027-3213-5
Hardback (also available in audio and e-book formats)
186 Pages

Material supplied by the good folks of the Plano Texas Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple ©2015


Bill Crider said...

Thanks for the kind words, Kevin. I always thought this series would get a paperback deal and do much better than it did instead of becoming forgotten.

August West said...

"Gator Kill" is my favorite Bill Crider novel. It's a finely crafted PI story with a touch of horror. Loved the action with the 4x4 hunting down Smith.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

No touch of horror for this reader. Just enjoyed a suspense filled mystery quite a lot. Which will lead on to read the next three in the series that I have here via my local library system.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

By the way, the new Sheriff Rhodes coming in August is still not listed in the library system. Seems like the Sheriff needs to call over and give somebody a stern talking to immediately

Morgan Mandel said...

Sounds pretty miserable out there, and to top it off, he's got to paint the house, too!