Friday, October 09, 2015

FFB Review: "The Prairie Chicken Kill: A Truman Smith Mystery" by Bill Crider

With Patti partying hard at Bouchercon, make sure you check out the complete list of reading suggestions at Sweet Freedom .......

When you solve the murder of an alligator as well a few other things you get a reputation for getting things done. Truman Smith might prefer to sit at the house on Galveston Island, but Dino comes to drag him into yet another fine mess. Though, at first, it doesn’t appear to be that big a deal. At least not like last time with the hunt for Outside Harry.

According to Dino, Lance Garrison wants to see Truman. Because of their past history dating back to High School and a broken nose he contacted Dino to spread the word.  Not only has he made a decent amount of money for Dino, Lance did all right for himself as he made plenty of money on the stock market while working for a brokerage firm there. He had a gift, made a ton of bucks, and came back to build and live in a fancy house with a view of the bay. If a major storm comes churning through the Gulf the house will be toast, but in the meantime the views of the sunsets are spectacular.

So too is the sight of Anne who is sitting a couch in Lance’s house when Dino and Truman arrive. Anne was a special love in High School long ago. The sight of her rattles Truman to the core as he still has incredible feelings for her. She is married now and older, but she still has Truman in ways he can’t fully explain. According to Anne, her father-in-law asked for Truman specifically and Truman still would like to make Anne happy if he can.

Out in the Eagle Lake area north of Houston near a little town called Picketville, Red Hineman (Anne’s father in law) manages quite few acres for Lance Garrison. Thanks to government program the land is a natural habit for water fowl and other birds. One of those is the Atwater Prairie Chicken also known as a grouse. With only 108 or so in the world, including forty or 50 in captivity, the bird is a very endangered. Now, somebody has killed one by shooting it. The dead bird was placed in such a way to make a clear statement. The government sent somebody to investigate, but all he did was massively annoy Red.  Lance is involved in the bird project and wants Truman to go poke around and see if he can figure out what happened before the Feds impose penalties and take other actions.

Lance is a jerk always has been and always will be, but he is willing to pay $500 a day plus expenses. Not only is it a chance to make Lance pay for his help, it is also a way for Truman to spend at least a little time with Anne. So Truman agrees and before long is dealing with a cast of suspects including a possibly crooked sheriff, the local militia, a radio host sure the government is about to attack any minute, small town politics, and more in The Prairie Chicken Kill: A Truman Smith Mystery by Bill Crider. 

Fourth in the series that began with Dead on the Island this read finds Truman Smith once again in a strange case as he moves around Southeast Texas. As this was first published in the mid 90s, it does not follow the current fad of dropping a body during the first three pages or feature an incredible hook in the opening sentence. Instead of the current gimmicks all the rage, it features a read that opens with introducing the characters and their relationship, the premise or initial mystery, and then builds slowly and steadily from there as events make things more and more complicated.  A little darker in tone than most of the Sheriff Dan Rhodes series, Truman drinks his Big Reds and gradually puts the clues together in a case where nearly everyone is a suspect. Plenty of twists and turns fill the read making The Prairie Chicken Kill: A Truman Smith Mystery by Bill Crider another very good read. 

The Prairie Chicken Kill: A Truman Smith Mystery
Bill Crider
Walker And Company
July 1996
ISBN# 0-8027-3282-8
Hardback (also available in audio and e-book formats)
208 Pages

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

Kevin R. Tipple ©2015


Mary Holshouser said...

I've been reading the Dan rhodes books and I love them.
I'll have to try this series.
Bill does a great job with Dan - hope there's a new one out soon.
I'm almost caught up to the end of the series.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

BETWEEN THE LIVING AND THE DEAD just came out a couple of months ago. I don't think there will be another Rhodes book until late next summer.

Caroline Clemmons said...

My husband just re-read this. In fact, he went through each of the Bill Crider books again and enjoyed them just as much the second time.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

Mighty good stuff.

Mathew Paust said...

Who in hell in this day and age--especially in this day and age--can resist giving the benefit of any doubt to a guy named Truman? The name alone trumps all doubt. (The defense rests...or is it the prosecution?)

Kevin R. Tipple said...

For FFB on 10/23 I will be reviewing the final one of the series MURDER TAKES A BREAK. I am putting the finishing touches on the review now.