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by Larry D. Sweazy
Seventh Street Books, January 2016
280 pages
ISBN: 1633880842

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Sonny Burton stopped working as a Texas Ranger when he lost his right arm in a shoot-out with Bonnie and Clyde. Physically, he can't do the job anymore. Mentally and emotionally - he'll always be a Ranger. He's still grappling with the reality of phantom pain, his disgust with the whole concept of a prosthesis, as well as adjusting to the new ways of dealing with daily life: shifting gears in his truck, carrying groceries, buttoning his shirt, etc. His pride tends to get in the way of accepting any help, much less asking for it.

One of the janitors at the local hospital asks Sonny for help. Aldo Hernandez wants Sonny to find his daughter; he suspects she has run off with two small-time crooks. Aldo is correct. Carmen is with Eddie and Tio, the Clever-Clever Boys. They made gin during Prohibition, and are trying to move up the ladder now that gin isn't profitable. Along the way, people start getting killed and Carmen doesn't know how to escape from what she now realizes is a very bad situation.

At the same time, the Texas Rangers are looking for what would now be referred to as a serial killer; young women are being found in ditches in this corner of Texas and the corpses are mutilated in very nasty ways. Unfortunately for Sonny, the current local Ranger is his son, who wants no part of his father in this investigation. Sonny understands this; he is a second generation Ranger and he remembers what it was like following in his father's footsteps.

CROWS is a very character-driven novel. Aside from the human characters, all of whom are well-rounded and believable, both the physical and the economic landscape serve as characters as well. Texas is in the heart of the Depression. Nobody has any money to speak of. This is the backdrop for much of the action in CROWS. So is the weather. It's summer in Texas, and hot doesn't begin to cover it. Not to mention that IF it rains, it doesn't matter. These facts also have an impact on everyone.

CROWS is a very realistic novel. People act as one would expect people in the various situations presented would act. There are no women who act like a contemporary woman might, no anachronisms of behavior or character to jerk one out of the story. This is a real pleasure. The plot has no gaping holes. While the tone and content is not always pretty or pleasant, CROWS was a joy to read.

P.J. Coldren lives in northern lower Michigan where she reads and reviews widely across the mystery genre when she isn't working in her local hospital pharmacy.

Reviewed by PJ Coldren, January 2016

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