Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Cursed to Death: Bill Crider

Cursed to Death is the 3rd mystery to feature Blacklin County Sheriff Dan Rhodes. It was published in 1988, which means no use of modern technology in solving the crime, an aspect I like. The series now has 23 books, with the 24th coming out in 2017.

In this story, Rhodes responds to a complaint from a dentist who has been cursed by a woman who claims to be a witch. The dentist, Dr. Samuel Martin, rents a house to this woman, and she owes him several months rent. He then takes her television set, which makes him as much in the wrong as she is. She threatens him with ill health, losing all his money and his teeth. There isn't much Rhodes can do about this, but the situation gets confusing very fast when the dentist disappears a week later.


One thing I really like about this series is that there is a "big" crime, a murder or two, but there are also the small crimes and small-town misunderstandings that a sheriff has to deal with. It feels real, not just a thriller carrying me along with fast-moving action. (Not that I don't enjoy such a thriller, I just want a varied diet in my mystery reading.)

One of the smaller issues the sheriff deals with here is an altercation in a nursing home caused by two residents who want to sleep together. This nursing home has a policy to only accept single patients, and they don't want any hanky panky going on. Rhodes suggests that maybe in this case they should allow the two to get married, but the resolution of this issue takes a while.

Another thing to like about this series is the recurring secondary characters, and my favorites are Hack Jensen, the dispatcher, and Lawton, the jailer. They are older men, well past retirement age, who work for next to nothing ... and love their jobs. They delight in holding back information from the sheriff and doling it out in bits and pieces. It is a little game they play, much to the sheriff's chagrin.

Cursed to Death was one of my mysteries read in December because it is set at Christmas. Does the title sound like a Christmas mystery? No, not at all. Does it really have much of a Christmas theme? Well, sort of. It is almost Christmas and Sheriff Dan Rhodes spends a good deal of his time during this book mulling over what to get his fiancé for Christmas. He is a widower and he seems to be waffling on the idea of marriage. Ivy, his fiancé, visits the jail and sees that it has no tree, no Christmas decorations. The two men who run the jail agree that a tree and some sprucing up for the season would be nice. So, yes, there are elements of Christmas throughout but they remain firmly in the background.

I loved this scene with Rhodes and Ivy preparing to go fishing:
Rhodes hunted up his tackle box and tossed it and the two rod-and-reel combos into the back of the county car. This wasn't official business, but he didn't think the commissioners would complain. He was going to visit the site of a suspected crime, after all. 
He picked up Ivy, who was waiting in front of her office. She was wearing low heels, but her pants outfit was much too nice to go fishing in. Or most women would have thought so. "I don't need to change," she said when she got into the car. "We don't have much daylight left." 
Rhodes knew that he wasn't making a mistake in being engaged to her. Anyone who understood the importance of fishing was a rare treasure.
In Cursed to Death, Bill Crider has written a great story with interesting characters and just the right amount of humor. I am reading my way through this series in order and loving it. I have not decided if I might eventually jump forward and read some of the newer books in the series... which I have already bought. Any opinions from those who have read this series?


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Publisher:   Ivy Books, 1990 (orig. pub. 1988)
Length:      171 pages
Format:      Paperback
Series:       Sheriff Dan Rhodes #3
Setting:      Texas
Genre:        Police Procedural
Source:      I purchased my copy.


18 comments:

  1. Ok I have decided this author & series will be the one for the Texas leg of my virtual tour of the USA because you've talked about him so glowingly several times. So the question is...what book? I'm unlikely to get through all 24 so do you have a recommendation for one that you think would work particularly well as a place to enter this series?

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    1. That is a hard question, Bernadette. I have only read the first three and I liked them all. Shotgun Saturday Night is my favorite so far. I would lean toward the earlier books if you can find any of them. If not, I think anyone that you find would be good. I hope.

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  2. The entire series is a delight and just gets better and better. It may be best to read them in order as newer characters are introduced and fleshed out, but that's not a major consideration. the basic rule of thumb is: When a Dan Rhodes mystery falls into your hands, do not let go! Read it no matter where it falls in the series. You can't go wrong.

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    1. Thanks, Jerry, I am very glad to get your opinion on that question. I will probably stick with getting through the early ones first, as long as I can afford it.

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  3. So glad you're profiling this one, Tracy. Bill Crider is a really talented writer, and the Dan Rhodes series is quite well-written. Folks, if you haven't tried it, I recommend it.

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    1. I agree, Margot. Having read an interview with Crider, and some other background, I am also interested in trying his Truman Smith series, and I already have a western he wrote in 1998, so I am going to diversify a bit too.

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  4. Thanks for the review and all the kind words!

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    1. All the words were sincere and well-deserved, Bill.

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  5. I have tracked down a copy of the first one in the series...can't start in a better spot that that I suppose :)

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  6. I like these a lot, though I've read the series - or part of it - in random order. Best to go in order, I think, based on my experience with it.

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    1. That works for me, Richard. I have recently purchased numbers 4 & 5 in the series and looking forward to reading them.

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  7. Okay, I'm convinced. Dan Rhodes in 2017. I'm going to begin at the beginning with this series since it sounds the best way.

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    1. I agree that is the best way to start, Yvette. I think it is the characters and the quiet humor that keeps me coming back.

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  8. Dan's knockin' on my Kindle door!

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    1. That is a good way to get them, Mathew. I have got to get back into using my Kindle.

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  9. Tracy, a Sheriff Dan Rhodes mystery is definitely on my wish-list. Bill has an easy and engaging style of writing that I like very much. To be honest, I have only read excerpts from his books.

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    1. I like his style of writing, too, Prashant. And I want to try some of the other series too.

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