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Check It Out

Courier Article by David Locker
Sunday, September 17, 2000

Lone Star Mysteries Offer Diversity for Every Taste

The library is thinking "western" for the next couple of months, in honor of Baxter Black's Oct. 20 appearance at The Victory.

Black is a Colorado writer and National Public Radio commentator who has been compared to Will Rogers for his homespun and commonsensical humor. His appearance is sponsored by the Public Library Friends.

One of the western states renowned for its mystery writers is Texas. Whatever your taste in mysteries, you should be able to find a Texas author to satisfy it. These Lone Star writers produce a variety of offbeat private eyes, folksy sheriffs, crusading courtroom heroes, and spunky amateur detectives.

The Last King of Texas by Rick Riordan (Bantam, 2000).

By day, Riordan is a mild-mannered Junior High English teacher. By night he is the author of one of the best tough-guy mystery series going.

Riordan's PI Tres Navarre is an unusual PI, because he has a doctorate in Medieval English Literature from Berkeley. In this case he gets to don both caps, when the University of Texas hires him to fill in for a murdered professor. Finding the prof's murderer turns out to be costly for Tres when he totals his beloved old Volkswagen Beetle.

If you like Robert B. Parker, you will probably like Riordan. Tres Navarre's sidekick, Ralph, is as mean as Hawk, and Tres appreciates good cuisine as much as Spenser. Riordan's San Antonio is easily as well drawn as Parker's Boston.

A Ghost of a Chance by Bill Crider (2000).

Crider's Sheriff Dan Rhodes has a lot in common with Mayberry's Andy Taylor. He is an easy-going, nonviolent guy with a droll sense of humor. He also has not one, but two, deputies who drive him crazy.

Rhodes' jurisdiction is Blacklin County, Texas, and like Jessica Fletcher's Cabot Cove, one wonders sometimes how such a small place can afford so many murder victims and still survive. Two more leading citizens are lost this time around. The pokey Rhodes gets his man and solves the mystery of a graveyard ghost at the same time.

After-Image by Jay Brandon (Forge, 2000).

Brandon is an Austin attorney, as well as an author of courtroom thrillers. This is the second appearance for San Antonio District Attorney Chris Sinclair.

We find out that Chris, the paragon of law and order, has not always been so straight-laced. He had sowed his wild oats during a year at the University of Texas, when he had been involved with a free-spirited young woman named Jean Plymouth.

Jean reenters his life now as the mother of a murder victim. Chris's personal involvement makes for an emotional case. This is a fast-paced story, which is as suspenseful out of the courtroom as within.

Don't Drink the Water by Susan Rogers Cooper (Avon, 2000).

E.J. Pugh has a way of attracting dead bodies. She cannot escape them even in the Virgin Islands, where she and her quarrelling sisters go for a not-so-therapeutic vacation.

E.J. has a wry sense of humor that will keep you smiling. A romance writer by trade, E.J. is a smart woman whose insights into people help her solve mysteries. If you are in the mood for a light read that will transport you to the beautiful Caribbean island of St. John, then look no farther.

If you are looking for something more serious, you might be interested in a Great Books Discussion Group I am starting at Central Library. We will meet once a month during the lunch hour and discuss the short classics to be found in the series of books put out by the Great Books Foundation. Please contact me, if you are wish to join us for some meaningful lunchtime conversation.

David Locker is a librarian with the Evansville-Vanderburgh Public Library. The opinions expressed in this column are personal and do not reflect policies or official recommendations of EVPL.