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From the Big Bend Country Mysteries series, volume 3

by J.J. Rusz

Pub Date: Dec. 17th, 2020
ISBN: 979-8-58-309725-8
Publisher: Self

A Texas sheriff copes with murder, attempted murder, and a returning ex-girlfriend in this third mystery series installment.

Clayton Shoot, now sheriff of Brewster County, Texas, isn’t expecting to have to deal with more than the usual rowdy crop of tourists in the area during spring break. That changes when the headliner for an annual cowboy poetry event is murdered, two septuagenarians are attacked on the Lost Mine Trail in Big Bend National Park, and Clayton’s former girlfriend, college professor Claire Harp, is back in town after a book tour and a walk on the red carpet with her 18-year-old, Oscar-winning brother. In this latest book in the enjoyable Big Bend Country Mystery series, Rusz again places fresh characters and inventive, parallel plots in the sprawling and diverse Trans-Pecos region of Texas with the deft touch of someone who knows the area well. Among the author’s returning, lively cast members are newly minted deputy sheriff Alonso Rangel, 24, and his 40-ish wife, police chief Fiona Tusk-Rangel, who was once a thorn in Clayton’s side but is now mellowed by marriage and impending motherhood; attack victims Ella Danton Nixon, who’s an anti-fracking, pro-gun screenwriter, and her dour husband, Barney; Clayton’s matchmaking sister, Beatrice Shoot; chief ranger Velma Furcron at Big Bend National Park; and FBI special agent Lee Perciak. New faces include wealthy businessman Andrew Crane, who’s oddly interested in Ella and Barney’s radical activism in the 1960s. Unexpectedly, the reasons behind Ella’s strange reaction to her own assault and the near-fatal assault on Barney come to light early on; so does a revelation from a surprising source in regard to the event. Unusually for a mystery, Rusz also doesn’t keep the primary culprit, or their motives, secret. A country singer’s fate may be rooted in the past, as well; the author informs readers of that motive for murder with genuine pathos. Meanwhile, Clayton and Claire’s mutual interest in solving the mysteries hints that a spark remains between them—and that a fourth book may be in the offing.

A thoroughly entertaining tale in an authentic setting that’s as colorful as its characters.