Thursday, April 3, 2008

Murder in the Modern West

McManus, Patrick. Avalanche (SimonSchuster $14).

Humorist McManus stole all our hearts with The Blight Way ($14), a romp filled with quirky characters, ready and rowdy wit, and a cast who made perfect foils for an outrageous plot. Sheriff Bo Tully, his father and predecessor in office Pap, can't really draw a line between the good guys and the not so good in Blight County, Idaho. Nor can they observe the niceties of police procedure, especially when a body turns up at the ranch of a family of ex-cons.

PW noted that "behind his hayseed cop exterior, Bo is smart, sneaky and relentless. Add lots of quirky suspects, criss-crossing motives and artery-clogging meals at Dave's House of Fry, and McManus delivers a brisk, hilarious smalltown cop mystery."

Avalanche is more a confederacy of dunces than a whodunit. Bo goes up against frat boys, and old flame, and a batch of blue bloods when all of them are trapped in a remote mountain lodge by an avalanche. Their cabin fever makes solving the murder of a fellow guest a welcome distraction….

Miller, Susan Cummins. Hoodoo (Texas Tech $25 Signed April 4).

The history of Geronimo and the Apaches of the Chiricahua mountains is a major trope in a novel that plays nicely off Massai Point and the special geology – the hoodoos – of this part of Arizona, and the Masaii tribe in Africa. Together, they form an unusual, imaginative spine for the story. It all begins on a geology class field trip conducted by MacFarlane.

Miller, who holds degrees in history, anthropology, and geology, and an M.S. in Geology, is a favorite with me and will appeal to readers of Sarah Andrews and Nevada Barr and Sandi Ault as well as Michael McGarrity and Elizabeth Gunn. And in Hoodoo, Tony Hillerman.

Frankie's crimesolving in Quarry ($7.99) won Miller the Turquoise Award, and a Gold Award from Foreword Magazine, plus it was a 2007 Finalist for the Willa Award.

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