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WINTER SEEKS OUT THE LONELY
by Larry D. Sweazy
Five Star/Cenage, August 2021
290 pages
$25.95
ISBN: 1432868969


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Texas during the winter can be bad. Winter in Texas during the Depression makes "bad" look like the up side. Sonny Burton knows most of the people in Wellington, although he calls very few of them friends. That stems in large part from not being a true local and it matters not that he's lived there most of his adult life. As a Texas Ranger, he was set apart by his job as well. Now that his son is the local Ranger, Sonny is the ex-Ranger with one arm. One of his few friends is a man he met while recuperating from having his arm amputated; Aldo Hernandez is former migrant worker, now the janitor at the local hospital. Aldo wants a favor, one he is very reluctant to ask of Sonny. Aldo's son is in jail. Aldo thinks it's all a set-up by the sheriff; a man Aldo claims has been using Rafael as a snitch. Sonny doesn't want to get involved for a myriad of reasons. Still, Aldo persists.

When Sonny goes into town to speak with the sheriff, he sees Heck Kilbride giving two strangers a hard time in the middle of downtown. Not only are they strangers in the normal sense of the word, they are also strange in other, obvious ways. One is a man at least eight feet tall, skinny, with out-sized features. The other person is a bearded lady. They are part of a rag-tag circus headed, very slowly, south for the winter. Sonny sticks up for them and everybody goes their separate ways, at least for the moment. Things do not stay peaceful, of course. Rafael is lynched. The sheriff, a man Sonny has worked with in the past and thought he knew well, is not acting as Sonny expects. Sonny's son may not be a Ranger much longer; there has been a political sea-change in Texas politics and his office is being closed. Sonny enlists his help in finding out what's going on with Rafael and the sheriff. Aldo is beaten to a pulp. Sonny persists in sticking his nose in where nobody wants it to be.

The major sub-plot involves Edith Grantley, a character from a previous Sonny Burton novel. She is traveling from Huntsville to Wellington, unaccompanied, to see what might become of her relationship with Sonny. Sweazy's ability to build tension is clearly demonstrated in his description of Edith's journey and the troubles she encounters on the road, as well as the complications that ensue after Sonny finds out she is on her way; the timing could not be worse for all involved.

Sweazy writes with great clarity and beauty about the country in and around Wellington. His descriptions are evocative; they bring an emotional intensity to the bleak and barren landscape around Sonny. His characters are captured with subtle details. The reader can tell they each have a story of their own, even if it is not revealed in this novel. This is more than "just" a mystery; it is a classic Western with all the dark and yet redemptive qualities one associates with the great stories of our historic past.

PJ Coldren has been reading and reviewing mystery fiction for over a quarter of a century and reads broadly within just about all genres and sub-genres. She lives in Northern lower Michigan with her spousal unit, one large cat, and 2 fairly small dogs.

Reviewed by P.J. Coldren, August 2021

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