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Professor Carl Burns knew the new dean wasn't going to work out when she bought the goats. And that was the least of the problems. Hartley Gorman College was being attacked - with a vengeance - by the forces of political correctness, and the new dean was an unreconstructed hippie. Courses would have to be rewritten, manners watched... and everyone knew Burns should have been the new dean, anyway. As if this weren't enough to contend with, Tom Henderson's fatal fall through a window definitely wasn't part of the planned curriculum. But figuring out whodunit is going to be a lot more interesting for Burns than grading papers for his developmental (read: remedial) English class.
Though nostalgic for the good old days, sheriff Dan Rhodes of Blacklin County, Texas, knows that times may change, but people are still people, some good, some bad, and most things can be explained with a little common sense - even the "ghost" haunting his jail. Could it be the same ghostly culprit looting the local cemetery? When Ty Berry, the president of one of two feuding historical societies, is found shot dead in a freshly dug grave, Rhodes decides the crime is of a more earthly nature. The outspoken head of the rival historical society becomes the second victim, putting Rhodes and his department on the trail of a double homicide, a small-time drug ring, a riot of loose emus, goats ... and of course, one irascible ghost. With his folksy manner and steel-trap mind, Rhodes proves once again that the human condition is an unchangeable as greed, desperation and murder. From The Critics: Publishers Weekly-- Blacklin County, Tex., which includes the decrepit little town of Clearview, is where Sheriff Dan Rhodes has kept order in nine previous mysteries (Death by Accident, etc.). Clearview is hardly a hotbed of crime, and the middle-aged sheriff's laid-back style seems a perfect fit. Neither the appearance of ghosts, first at the jail, then in a local cemetery; nor the body of a murdered man found in a grave newly dug for another body; nor the uproar over cemetery thefts raised by the Clearview Sons and Daughters of Texas, a historical preservation group, is enough to get Rhodes too worked up. With quiet good humor, courage and a direct approach, Rhodes goes about the business of soothing, questioning or confronting as needs be. Rhodes's septuagenarian aides, Hack and Lawton, provide information as well as critical (and comical) commentary. A pair of petty and incompetent criminals, Rapper and Nellie, resurface to plague Rhodes again. And the county's newly successful romance novelist, Vernell Lindsey, can't seem to keep her goats fenced in or her neighbors from getting nosey. In some novels, two murders, a shootout, thefts and a drug factory would send the violence quotient over the top, but folksy Dan Rhodes handles it all with pleasing and entertaining aplomb.
STRANGE SIGHTINGS... It starts when Blacklin County, Texas, oddball tough-guy Bud Turley asks Sheriff Dan Rhodes to guard an enormous tooth Bud found, which he claims belonged to Bigfoot. Shortly thereafter, the body of Bud's friend Larry is found in the vicinity of the "discovery." Bigfoot enthusiasts are convinced it's the creature's handiwork, especially when an elderly woman who ran a feedstore nearby is found with a broken neck. Rhodes suspects a monster of the more human variety. Though feral pigs, copperheads and other dangers roam the area, Rhodes thinks both deaths are connected to the disappearance of a local boy a decade earlier. With Bigfoot mania running amok at his crime scene, Rhodes quietly pursues the trail of a killer with a deadly reputation of his own that he wants to keep buried.
When Sheriff Dan Rhodes is asked to join the Clearview Barbershop Chorus, he suspects that there's an ulterior motive, mainly because he can't sing a note. He's momentarily distracted by a rogue alligator on the loose, but shortly afterward, Lloyd Berry, the director of the chorus, is murdered. Berry is suspected of embezzling money, and he's leaked the information that a member of the chorus ordered a singing valentine for a woman who isn't his wife. Later, Rhodes discovers that Berry has been gambling on eight-liners at Rollin' Sevens, a barely legal operation in a strip center on the outskirts of town. Rhodes also must deal with the usual assortment of small-town crimes: a man dressed in his underpants and cowboy boots picketing a law office, dog food theft, and attempts on the life of a man who likes to root through garbage. Rhodes sorts through clues that involve geocaching and barbershop singing with the help of a few oddball local characters before he solves the crime.
Dan Rhodes, the sheriff of Blacklin County, Texas, has seen more than his share of strange events during his time in office-most recently he exorcised a ghost from the county jail and he has always tolerated the banter between his elderly jailer and dispatcher. However, not even Hack and Lawton's friendly word play could have prepared him for the group of writers that have descended upon Blacklin County. When Vernell Lindsey, Clearview's newly published romance novelist, decides to hold a romance writer's convention, residents think this will finally get their town on the map. They are even more excited when they learn that former Clearview resident Terry Don Coslin will headline the event-Terry Don is now the most sought after male cover model for these very novels. Rhodes doesn't understand why so many people are interested in writing, but this becomes the least of his concerns when a local aspiring novelist is found dead in her room at the college. Was her death the work of a jealous rival? Or did her new book get a bit too close to certain people's real lives? As he investigates, Rhodes begins to learn more about the publishing industry and some sordid facts Terry Don. Is he at all connected to the murder? When another murder occurs, Rhodes receives the unwelcome aid of two aspiring novelists, eager to switch from romance to mysteries. Their theories are a little too far from the truth, but Rhodes does make some headway on his own. Relying on his trademark common sense and cunning and the help of his deputy sheriff Ruth Grady, Rhodes is able to solve the murders although he still can't figure out why so many people want to write a novel.
A couple of cartons of cigarettes, a few beers, and a Moon Pie stolen from the rural grocery. A barroom fight. Adultery in the public park. Ducks loose in a neighbor's garden. That's the kind of crime that usually occupies the sheriff of Blacklin County, Texas. So no matter how well Dan Rhodes does his job, his hopes for reelection--especially against a flamboyant opponent--are only modest. Which is too bad for Blacklin County; Dan Rhodes is a good lawman and a good human being, and his work, since his beloved Claire died, is the center of his life. That and his daughter Kathy, whose romance with his quick-tempered deputy, Johnny Sherman, makes Dan a little uneasy. Or is he just being a possessive father? Murder changes the situation--although it hardly improves Dan's chances for reelection, and could make them worse. For this murder is not a domestic quarrel that erupts into gunfire, or a simple robbery that turns into unexpected homicide. It's the brutal death of an attractive young housewife, recently married to an older man. And as Dan seeks the killer of Jeanne Clinton, he begins to uncover more hidden activities in Thurston (population 408) than he had thought the small community could contain. Nobody denies that, when younger and single, Jeanne Clinton had been a bit wild; after all, she'd won the wet T-shirt contest at the Paragon, hadn't she? But marriage brought respectability. It also brought, Dan soon discovers, a host of male visitors who were in the habit of dropping by while Elmer Clinton worked the night shift--"just to talk." Apparently Jeanne was a wonderful listener. And that makes for a number of suspects. In addition, there's Billy Joe Byron, not quite right in the head, but whose only known transgressions had been bouts of peaceful Peeping Tomism. Dan, although convinced that Billy Joe is harmless, wonders why the simple man seems suddenly to fear him. The atmosphere of these small Texas towns is extraordinarily vividly evoked; the population there both real and colorful. In Dan Rhodes himself we get a warm, well-rounded picture of a man more complex than he first appears to be, a man coping well with doubts, disappointments, and the occasional small triumph.
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