Dear Ms. Jeffrey,
When I started reading your book, I was so glad that I work with a woman who’s owned horses for years and who has taken me out to ride her horses many times because I immediately caught one of your first clues that something wasn’t right about the crime scene. “Whoohoo,” I said. “I know why the sheriff and the EMT are giving each other significant looks as they realize that the victim, an experienced horsewoman, was wearing flip-flops in a riding arena.” And when I told my friend about this, she was so proud of me! From that point on, I had a good feeling that you were going to do right by us readers.
Sheriff Rusty Joplin realizes early on that this is going to be one of those mornings when he wishes he could turn the clock back and start it over. By chance his experienced assistant catches the call made for an ambulance to be dispatched to the home of the daughter of one of the wealthiest families in west Texas. And when he gets there, he discovers that the woman, Carla Ryder Blanchard, a woman he grew up with and knows well, is dead. To make matters worse, he’s pretty sure that 1) this is a crime scene, 2) the crime scene has been ruined as far as getting any clues from it, 3) he’s going to have trouble with the family because 4) the victim’s father hates him.
Years ago Rusty and the youngest Ryder daughter, Elena, were hot and passionate about each other. Randall Ryder, who inherited money and then made tons more of it from cattle and oil, made sure that he split that relationship up. But 15 years later, he’s never been able to control his youngest daughter the way he has the other two and even though Elena didn’t marry Rusty, she never took to any of the polished, and controllable, men to whom Randall introduced her. Rusty can’t believe that Elena is the only Ryder who believes that something funny was going on the morning of Carla’s death but with the powerful patriarch of the family lined up against him, the woman’s husband indifferent to his wife’s suspicious death, and the eldest daughter swimming in bottles of booze, he’ll take any support he can get. Because Rusty, with ten years of experience in homicide cases gleaned from his years away from his small hometown of Salvation, Texas, isn’t about to let this case go unsolved.
This book is like “Dallas” crossed with a police procedural. We’ve got wealth, we’ve got crime, we’ve got greed and we’ve got hot sex. And all the men wear cowboy hats. I like view of small town Texas life where everybody knows just about everything about each other and everybody lives for Friday night high school football and weekend rodeos. The police part seems reasonable and accurate. Or no bells went off while I read it but then it’s not my area of expertise.
I like Rusty who’s an all round good guy concerned about everyone’s well-being but without being a wuss. He’s a man who can be trusted to do the right thing even if it’s not going to make his day to do it. Elena seems a little too good to be true (ER nurse, selflessly devotes extra time to others, drives elderly immigrants to English as second language classes, etc) but other two sisters (the drunk and the whore) make up for her.
I liked how old fashioned detail work solves the case. But one niggle is that so much of the case ends up getting solved in the last 30 pages. There are clues scattered throughout the book that point to the killer but he still seems to pop up almost out of thin air. Most of the rest of the book is about Rusty and Elena’s relationship and Randall Ryder throwing his wealthy weight around. The last chapter points to an almost too quick and rosey existence for Elena, Rusty and Carla’s children though I appreciate the fact that Rusty is going to have to get used to the fact that he’s married to a woman with a whopping trust fund.
Readers should get ready to mentally play the “Dallas” theme song and picture the dusty, flat plains of west Texas while reading it. B for Salvation, Texas.