Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Blanco County Mystery

Blanco County, Texas. This is the fifth book in the series written by Ben Rehder. The name of this book is Gun Shy and the sleuth is John Marlin – a game warden in Blanco, TX. It has been a while since I read the other four books in the series and I can not say for sure if this is the best one in the series but it is definitely one of the best.

Ben Rehder takes a Texas issue – gun control and concealed weapons – and develops the story around it. In addition, he uses several interesting subplots within the story.

Blanco County is going to be the site for a NWA (an organization like the NRA) rally. Looming in the background (and waiting for a confrontation) is an organization opposing the NWA. This group is called SNATCH – the Society of Nonviolent Americans to Control Handguns). A murder poses a threat to the NWA. This murder is committed by the spokesperson for the NWA (Mitch Campbell) while under the influence of drugs and alcohol. An unsuccessful attempt by the spokesperson (Mitch Campbell) and an officer in the NWA (Dale Stubbs) is made to hide the murder. Attempts were made to disguise it as a hunting/poaching accident and John Marlin is brought in to help with the investigation.

The author introduces a love interest for our game warden. She is a deputy and the author uses her in several ways to make the story more interesting. It is funny to see how she teases John Marlin with the television when there is jewelry commercial on it. It is also interesting how the author puts her and our game warden on opposite sides of the gun issue. John Marlin is a longtime supporter of the NWA and his love interest (Nicole) opposes some of the things they support. Later in the story we (and John) learn the reason for her opposition is a result of an earlier experience involving a gun being held to her neck.

Another character from previous books is used in the book to make it more interesting. This character is a redneck called Red O’Brien who has done some poaching in earlier books. He is a somewhat comical character who wants to join the NWA. His application for membership is rejected because of some controversial views he has expressed. In addition, he has aspirations of being a song writer and seeks out the spokesman for the NWA (also a country singer) to get a song he wrote recorded.

Mitch (the spokesman) gives Red and his friend a job on his ranch. Through the course of the investigation, the spokesperson for the NWA becomes a suspect for the murder – and a liability to the NWA. This produces another subplot when an attempt is made to kill him but instead he kills the person sent. Mitch convinces Red and his friend to hide the body for him.

Obviously it was interesting to see how the initial murder and the subsequent murder were solved. It was also interesting how a cold case murder is made relative to this story and how it plays a part in the current story. This cold case gets solved as well.

There were other ways the author made this story interesting. For example, it was funny to hear our game warden recall some hilarious calls he had in the past. In on case, a lady complaining about deer eating her flowers suggests a solution. The solution is to relocate a deer crossing sign so the deer want cross near her property – and flowers.

The author’s use of John Marlin’s best friend (Colby) to get a ring for his love interest was also interesting. The bantering Marlin got from his friend was hilarious. In a way it showed how the competent game warden was not as sure in the area of understanding women.

I would suggest this book (and other books in the series) to anybody who likes light mysteries with humor.

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