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by Harold Adams
Walker & Co., October 1998
156 pages
ISBN: 0802775543

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In the Shamus Award-winning The Man Who Was Taller Than God, Carl Wilcox is painting street signs in Hope, South Dakota, when a small boy comes pedaling up telling of a body in the sandpit. Investigating, Carl finds Felton Edwards, a man who left Hope 15 years before. A tall, strong and handsome widower, Felton had cut a swath through Hope's womenfolk, married and unmarried. Suspects included the grocer and his wife, the jeweler and his wife, 2 schoolteachers, a spinster and a widow; the undertaker and his wife; a local widow, a woman bar owner and her bartender boyfriend; a cardsharp; and innumerable other husbands and boyfriends.

Since the town police officer is sweet on one of the schoolteacher, the mayor hires Carl to investigate the crime. A sympathetic listener, Carl soon has all the women on his suspect list pouring their hearts out to him about their relationships with Felton. A lazy underachiever, Felton had eased through life dreaming up get-rich-quick schemes, until (as Carl discovers) they led to his involvement in murder, first as murderer, then as victim. As Carl crisscrosses South Dakota and Minnesota, following the threads of Felton's career, the reader enjoys the Spartan prose and crisp descriptions of small town life in the Great Plains drought--descriptions worthy of Hammett in Red Harvest.

Carl is a rural version of the '20s and '30s pulp detective, a principled loner who must search through the evil under the surface of everyday life, making moral decisions as he comes toward the solution to the mystery. Fans of early hard-boiled novels and stories, and fans to mystery fiction that brings to life a distant time and place will enjoy Carl Wilcox, a 20th century Shane.

Reviewed by Marsha Valance, August 2001

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