Detective Sergeant Ted Stephens isn’t bothered by the heat and humidity of Houston, Texas in the summer of 1969. Known to one and all as “Steve” he is bothered that his Lieutenant is shoving him onto a case assigned to other detectives. Lieutenant Bolce has his reasons and knowing the fact that Detective Wetsel is on the case explains at least part of it. Wetsel isn’t one of the best in the Houston Police Department though he thinks he is the greatest thing since sliced bread.
The well kept exterior of a nice in the River Oaks section of the city hides a nightmare inside. Three adults are dead. Each adult was shot multiple times. Several kids were also in the house and slept through the shootings. Before the bodies are removed, investigators already know that at least one of the victims had ties to organized crime. Investigators already know that the grandson had threatened to kill the rest of the family before and that the grandson has a history of drug dealing.
For some the information regarding the grandson makes it a simple case. Steve doesn’t agree and begins to turn up other pieces to the puzzle. His investigation increasingly leads elsewhere and is constantly hampered by interdepartmental politics and a chaotic personal life.
Bill Crider and Clyde Wilson have created a steady tale full of interesting characters, plenty of action and a case that is far from simple. Relationships matter in this novel and relationships are what drive most of the event. Whether it is the conflict between Steve and Wetsel, Steve and his wife trying to save their marriage, or Steve and his friend private investigator Clive Watson working together in different and at times conflicting ways to bring a killer to justice, relationships are front and center throughout the novel. Relationships, both friendly and antagonistic, are the primary catalyst behind nearly every action in this enjoyable steady novel and serve to drive the investigation forward in a work that also examines the seedier side of life in as clean and a sterile way as possible.
While some have categorized the novel as a police procedural, I wouldn’t. Instead, I would refer to it more as a cozy style novel that is occasionally a little graphic. While there are police procedural elements in it, as well as suspense elements, romance elements, etc. it really isn’t a police procedural. If anything, it could be described more as a “buddy mystery novel” if one had to pin it way down. Suffice it to say that it is a good mystery novel and leave it at that.
Bill Crider and Clyde Wilson
Five Star Publishing (Gale Group)
Review copy provided by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System
Kevin R. Tipple Â© 2008