“Everyone wants to write a book,” Sheriff Dan Rhodes’s feisty wife Ivy assures him. “The people who aren’t writing romance novels are writing mysteries.” And Rhodes’s bailiwick of Clearview has no less than its share of both published writers—like Vernell Lindsay, whose Wild Texas Wind draws more people to the local Wal-Mart than a half-price sale on overalls—and “pre-published” writers—like Henrietta Bayam, Marian Willoughby, and Belinda Marshall, who flock to the romance writers’ convention at Thomas Chatterton’s newly restored conference center at defunct Obert College in hopes of tempting literary agents like brusque New Yorker Jeanne Arnot with their yet-unsold wares. Of course attendance isn’t hurt any by the appearance of hometown hero Terry Don Goslin, whose chiseled chest adorns the covers of innumerable hot-selling romances. But even the prospect of a peep at Terry Don’s peerless musculature can’t tempt the Texas lawman (A Ghost of a Chance, 2000, etc.) back to school—at least not until dispatcher Hack Jensen informs him that Henrietta’s been found dead in her dorm room. Then Rhodes is all over Obert, spooking Bill Quentin’s dog Grover and resisting Mrs. Appleby’s offer of chicken-fried steak until he makes his way through a web of motives and alibis as flimsy as the pantyhose drying on the dorm’s shower rod.
Crider gets his tongue way into his cheek for this lively, funny look at sex, lies, and really good pecs.