I’ve just finished reading two very good --- and very different -- murder mysteries by Texas authors.
The Three Beths by Jeff Abbott is a thriller about the seemingly unrelated disappearances of two women named Bethany and Beth (Grand Central Publishing, $26 hardcover, coming out in paperback in April for $15.99).
Beth’s grown daughter, Mariah, is determined to find out what happened to her mother. Nearly everyone in the fictional Austin suburb of Lakehaven – and especially the investigating detective -- believes Mariah’s father killed her mother, even though her body has not been found. Mariah supports her father and clings to the faint hope that maybe her mother is still alive.
Her quest puts her in contact with Bethany’s family, though there is little reason to suspect that Bethany and Beth had anything in common other than their first names and that they lived in the same general area.
But as Mariah probes the two cases, she discovers a connection – and the fallout threatens to put her, and others involved in the cases, in grave danger. A mysterious third “Beth” evolves as a major figure in the plot.
If you haven’t read anything by Abbott, a New York Times bestselling author of 18 novels, try this one. Or you can find some of his earlier books in paperback. He knows how to capture the reader’s attention and keep the story moving.
In the acknowledgments section at the end of the book, Abbott notes that his Austin home burned down while he was writing The Three Beths. He thanks authors and readers who helped him rebuild his library after the fire.
Bill Crider: Texas author Bill Crider wrote more than 70 novels, and about a third of them revolved around Blacklin County Sheriff Dan Rhodes. Crider died last year, but he already had another Dan Rhodes novel in the works, the 25th in the series -- and the last.
That Old Scoundrel Death (Minotaur Books, $27.99 hardcover) was published this month. The Rhodes stories involve a respected small-town sheriff who always manages to solve the crime, often with the help of professor/investigator C.P. “Seepy” Benton.
This time it’s a murder in an abandoned schoolhouse that half the community wants to tear down and half wants to restore to its former glory. An investigative blogger is found shot in the head in the schoolhouse, and a few days later someone sets fire to the building and destroys it.
Rhodes has several potential suspects, but Benton uncovers evidence that focuses on one in particular. As Rhodes pursues the lead, he begins to wonder if it isn’t about time to retire and let a younger person take over as sheriff, a notion that not many in the fictional town of Clearview agree with.
The Dan Rhodes novels proceed at a somewhat leisurely pace for a murder mystery as the sheriff faces such day-to-day distractions as road rage, high-speed car chases, vicious dogs, tedious deputies, competing local news bloggers, and his wife’s determination to make him eat healthier meals. But that’s part of the charm of the series.