Friday, December 18, 2015

FFB Review: "Dead Soldiers: Carl Burns Mystery Series" by Bill Crider

Friday means Friday’s Forgotten Books hosted by Patti Abbott on her blog. This is the final FFB post until January 15, 2016 as Patti is taking a posting break. I think the rest of us loyal minions will be taking the break as well. The 15th is also Richard Prather day for FFB thanks to Barry Ergang so most of the reviews that day will be on Prather books. I have a Prather book here via Barry, but I don’t know if I will get it read in time.

It seems fitting that on this final Forgotten Books Friday of 2015 I am tying off the last book of a series. The Carl Burns Mystery Series by Bill Crider is a good one. A series that ended way too soon after four books with Dead Soldiers. While I got my hardback read via my local library, it has been available in e-book version since January 2013 thanks to Crossroad Press. The same is true of the earlier books in the series.


Professor Carl Burns knows that a call from the dean is never good news. It usually signals trouble of some sort. Dean Partridge has proven to be no exception to the rule though in this case it was not her who called. Instead, it was her secretary who informed Professor Burns that the dean wanted to see him immediately. Either way, a summons from the dean is ominous.

Burns can’t figure out what he did this time to get himself summoned, but it wouldn’t have had to be his doing at Hartley Gorman College in South Texas. It could have been somebody in his English department who ran afoul of one rule or another. It could be because a student filed a complaint over something. Burns knows full well that he isn’t Dean Partridge’s favorite person by a long shot, but what has gone on in recent years wasn’t really Burn’s fault. He just got dragged into a murder investigation or two and a few other things. Professor Burns has a bit of a reputation at the college and beyond as many of the residents of the small town of Pecan City know he has helped local law enforcement. Most of the stuff happened long before Dean Partridge got there though there was that incident with her goat.

Once he gets to her office, Burns quickly realizes that it his crime solving reputation that she had in mind when Dean Gwendolyn Partridge sent for him. She collects toy soldiers. Her collection of miniature military figures is worth a lot of money. Somebody took six figures during a recent party she had at her house. While Burns does not like or trust her goat, he probably is not the responsible party. The culprit is a two footed human that was at a party that Burns had not been asked to attend.

The party was to celebrate the honor students at the college. In addition to the honor students, also in attendance were important people such as local civic leaders and/or donors.  News of the theft, if it was made known to the public by local media, would bring unfavorable publicity to the college. Nobody wants that to happen again as there has been more than enough of unfavorable publicity.

Dean Partridge wants Burns, because of his track record of solving previous mysteries, to very discreetly poke around and find out who took her soldiers. Beyond the problem of the suspect list being about 100 names is the problem that even the local police chief, Boss Napier, is on the list. A suspect that is a rival for a certain librarian’s affection. Chief Napier isn’t pleased that the dean dragged him into the situation regarding her toy soldiers. Especially since of them has just been found by the body of Mathew Hart who used to work at HGC. Hart used to be a professor years ago and was pretty much universally despised by students and staff.

Napier wants Burns to stay out of the way which suits Burns fine. But, the murder of Mathew Hart stirs up the campus. Even though Burns tries to stay out of things, gradually one thing leads to another and before long he is being shot at and worse. He even has to play in a softball game against the students. After all, the game must go on because if it does not the terrorists have won.

Fourth in the Carl Burns Mystery Series, Dead Soldiers is another very satisfying read. Originally published by Five Star Books in 2004 and now again available via the e-book format from Crossroads Press, the tale does not follow the current fad of dropping a body in the first three paragraphs.  Instead, author Bill Crider sets the table with some background before Burns learns of the first body. Like the other books this series, the world of academia takes center stage as the author follows the classic dictum of “write what you know” while putting a very enjoyable spin on things. 

Dead Soldiers is the final installment of the very good Carl Burns mystery series. While it would be best to read in order starting with One Dead Dean, then moving on to Dying Voices, and then to … A Dangerous Thing, one could safely read this mystery first as events in earlier books are only briefly alluded to in the read. Along with the core mystery, humor and other touches by author Bill Crider make this mystery as well as the entire series well worth your time. 

Dead Soldiers: The Carl Burns Mystery Series
Bill Crider
Five Star Books
June 2004
ISBN# 1-59414-186-X
250 Pages

Material was picked up to read and review by way of the good folks of the Plano Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple ©2015


mybillcrider said...

Thanks, Kevin!

Kevin R. Tipple said...

Thank you for the many hours of great reading you have provided the world.

Mathew Paust said...

Feel the Burns! This sounds like fun--especially as I have never been fond of deans, chiefs...well most any type of authority figure. Plus with Crider one can never go wrong.

Unknown said...

I have to buy all the books in this series since I loved the Truman Smith series, and the one Burns short story that I got to read; in the book "Night Time is the Right Time." That book is a compilation of absolutely fabulous short stories. I also loved all the Dan Rhodes books I read, and "We'll always Have Murder",the Humphrey Bogart mystery, Great stuff!

Kevin R. Tipple said...

All good ones....