It is no stretch to say football is the game and religion of Texas. Outsiders just don’t understand how important football is to the people of Texas. Especially the people who live in small towns. The signs out the town’s edge may get faded and rusted but for the people that lived in that town, the glorious championship just happened yesterday. Or, the heartbreaking loss for that matter.

Sheriff Dan Rhodes understands that concept and he remembers his glory on the football field that passed quickly. While he does lament that a little, he has moved on unlike many who hit their peak in High School and nothing was as good since. Trapped in the past of their youth they just can’t help themselves. Now as Sheriff the fact that Clearview High is very close to a state championship games just means a lot more work. The last time they got close was 1949 and a lot has changed over the years. Rhodes isn’t a kid growing up listing to his Dad talk about the blowout loss. Now he is a sheriff of a small department that will have to work crowd control at tonight’s playoff game, fights at clubs in town, minor’s drinking and a host of other issues. If the team wins again and they advance further into the playoffs, they will all have to do it all over again next weekend.


What Sheriff Rhodes didn’t expect was a near riot at the game over a late hit. Emotions ran high and it took a lot to get both teams back to playing the game. He also didn’t expect to see an assistant coach for Clearview High take a swing at the head coach.  And he certainly didn’t expect there to be a murder after the game.


But all that and plenty more happened in short order. Long before the body is cold Rhodes has the whole county pushing him to get the case solved.  After all, a man is dead but the team has a state championship to win. The team doesn’t need the distraction of having to wait for the killer of their assistant football coach to be caught. Football is the main priority for nearly every one and Rhodes isn’t happy about that either.


Or the fact that Rapper is back in town and as low down mean as ever.


Eighth in a very good series this novel takes readers back to the East Texas countryside and Blacklin County, Texas. The county seat is Clearview, which is a small town. However, all the ills of the big city are present and others unique to country living which means Rhodes always has plenty to do with or without backup. Comfortably married to Ivy, despite her dietary choices which have kind of ruined food, Rhodes is a man that doesn’t cave to outside pressures or uses new fangled technology to investigate cases.


Instead, he travels around the county asking lots of questions. Somebody sooner or later makes a mistake, the secret is out, and Rhodes catches them in a lie. One thing leads to another and behind all the dirt and worries about the latest scandal, Rhodes figures out the murder and arrests him or her. That same formula is at work here and makes for a mighty good read.


Those looking for graphic violence, gratuitous sex, or name dropping of expensive items won’t find it here. Instead, one finds a simple and honest lawman, one that has his roots in the Texas of yesterday, taking care of business one step at a time.


Winning Can Be Murder: A Sheriff Dan Rhodes Mystery

Bill Crider  
Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press
ISBN# 0-312-14072-X
216 Pages Review copy provided by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System. 

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

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