Posted in Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: The Peaceful Valley Crime Wave by Bill Pronzini

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*No Major Spoilers*

Nothing much happens in Peaceful Valley, Montana. And that’s just how Sheriff Lucas Monk likes it.

Aside from the occasional drunken brawl or minor disturbance out on the reservation, he hasn’t had to resort to his fists or sidearm in years.

That is, until mid-October, 1914, when the theft of a wooden cigar store Indian sets off a crime wave like nothing Lucas has ever seen. Teenager Charity Axthelm goes missing, Reba Purvis’s housekeeper is poisoned with cyanide Reba is sure was meant for her, and Lucas’s gut tells him that this is only the beginning.

It’s not long before the first corpse shows up, bringing the peace in the valley to a thundering end.

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I have read and reviewed a few Westerns on this blog before. Some include The Ballad of Black Bart by Loren D. Estleman, The Hunger by Alma Katsu, Holmes on the Range by Steve Hockensmith, and recently, Modo: Ember’s End by Arthur Slade. Let’s return to the frontier in The Peaceful Valley Crime Wave by Bill Pronzini! 

I enjoyed how the book starts with the theft of the local cigar store Indian, and the chaos grows from there. Sherriff Monk takes the chaos in stride and does his best to investigate with the clues the case threw at him. Next, the attempted murder of a local busybody and her housekeeper. Finally, the murder of a local young woman who supposedly ran away with a traveling merchant.

First of all, I fell in love with Sherriff Monk. I agreed with his idea of justice and doing things more or less by the book. His dry sense of humor had me chuckling along as he’s questioning witnesses and looking for clues. He is honest, and he’s willing to let his deputies participate in the investigations. 

Out of the three central mysteries, I think the attempted homicide by poisoning ended up being my favorite. I think the idea of a murderess killing wealthy bachelors and taking their money and moving to a new town to start again is fascinating. The case reminded me of the frontier serial killer, Belle Gunness.

Overall, I enjoyed The Peaceful Valley Crime Wave. There was plenty of action, mystery, and old fashioned justice. What caused this sudden and brief crime wave Sherriff Monk isn’t sure of by the time the last case wraps up. Maybe Montana is just dull enough to cause people to go a little batty. 

I would recommend this novel for lovers of westerns, mysteries, and historical fiction. I think you should give this a read if you’re looking for a great western mystery. The Peaceful Valley Crime Wave is an entertaining read that I enjoyed from beginning to end.

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Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: Double Wide by Leo W. Banks

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*No Spoilers*

After fastball phenom Prospero Stark’s baseball career craters in a Mexican jail, he retreats to a trailer park in the scorching Arizona desert. He lives in peaceful anonymity with a collection of colorful outcasts until someone leaves his former catcher’s severed hand on his doorstep. Beautiful, hard-living reporter Roxanne Santa Cruz, who keeps a .380 Colt and a bottle of Chivas in her car, joins Stark to help him uncover his friend’s fate, a dangerous pursuit that pits them against a ruthless gang of drug-dealing killers.

This novel caught my eye because of the cover art. The imagery of the parched, Arizona desert with the lone camper trailer gave me the impression of a modern-day western.

I found Double Wide to be an entertaining read. Prospero just wanted to disappear from the spotlight after being caught with his best friend who had some cocaine, on top of him losing his throwing arm. However, when the disembodied hand appears, it throws Prospero back into the spotlight as he tries to solve his friend’s murder.

I liked how Prospero ran his own trailer park, and how all of his neighbors called him “Mayor”. I found all of his neighbors to be enjoyable and likable in their own ways. Especially how Prospero would give them rides into town when they needed to go to their jobs. It just shows that Prospero cares about his tenants.

I found Roxanne to be a little annoying, I felt like she was manipulating Prospero to do things that might be considered unethical. Like showing up on the doorstep of the hottest baseball manager in town in the middle of the night. Even though it was all for a good cause, I didn’t like how Roxanne was controlling the narrative when she was involved.

I enjoy baseball from time to time, and I thought a sports-related mystery made this novel and intriguing read! Even if you’re not familiar as the sport, the rules and techniques are explained in a way where anyone could understand what was going on.

If you’re looking for a mystery novel that combines the love of baseball with the struggles of drug cartels along the Mexican border; this is the book for you!