This respectable debut features recent widower Dan Rhodes, sheriff to sleepy Blacklin County, Texas--a solid, straightforward type who's running for reelection, rediscovering romance, and investigating a very disturbing homicide: the apparent murder of comely housewife Jeanne Clinton, found beaten to death in her little white frame house. There are plenty of suspects--because, while her middle-aged husband worked the night shift, Jeanne was known to have entertained lonely neighborhood gentlemen. . .including Rhodes' opponent in the upcoming election! In fact, puritanical matron Mrs. Hod Barrett screams ""The Scarlet Whore of Babylon!"" at Jeanne's funeral--and is herself soon murdered. So Rhodes is busy, confused, and disturbed, especially when he begins to suspect that his own deputy might have something to do with this local crime-wave. And there's a grim chase (complete with stampeding boars) before a series of gothicky confessions brings things to a tidy but unsatisfying close. Still, if the assorted murder-motivations are less than convincing here, the small-town atmosphere is completely persuasive; Rhodes, laconically investigating or awkwardly courting, is a likably strong-and-silent hero; and Crider's wry, folksy narration helps to make this pleasant going--despite the occasional lapses into grand guignol and Charlie Chan-style melodrama.