Blacklin County, Texas, Sheriff Dan Rhodes is a good man.
In Bill Crider's 1986 Too Late to Die, Rhodes makes all kinds of mistakes, but he makes most of them because he is the right man to be sheriff.
This is the first book in the Dan Rhodes series.
Someone kills Jeanne Clinton. Later, there is a second murder.
All this occurs in the middle of an election. Rhodes is already dealing with an accusation that a deputy beat up two innocent men.
It looks as if Rhodes can't even stop small, routine break-ins at a dying town's mercantile store.
And Rhodes' personal life is changing...again. The widower Rhodes finds a woman he might come to love almost as much as he loved his wife. He is about to send his daughter off to work in the city.
Rhodes stumbles through a series of investigations. The whole thing ends with one of the most different endings to any story I've read.
So there's a little bit happening in Too Late to Die. But to me, the real issue, is--What makes a good sheriff?
Is the best sheriff the one who wears a cowboy hat and boots, the one who can give a good speech, the one who will stay away from the hard decisions and favor the usually-favored people in the county?
Or is the best sheriff the one who, despite his mistakes, reflects Blacklin County values?
Blacklin County values sometimes call for you NOT to enforce the law. Blacklin County values call for you to consider the people more important than the way things look, even to the voting public.
Blacklin County values call for you to be honest, to sometimes share the things you want to hide.
And Blacklin County values often mean you have to risk your life doing the right thing even when you won't gain much by it.
This story was different than the first Dan Rhodes story I read. The first one (which was the second in the series) had several movie and detective story references. A few of the scenes even echoed movie scenes.
This story leaves most of that out. This story is more surprising.
Too Late to Die was an Anthony Award winner for best first-time mystery.
At first, I found the story slow. Small town elections don't much interest me. But when the action starts, it really starts.
So, Too Late to Die is another good Dan Rhodes Blacklin County Sheriff story.