That Old Scoundrel Death releases today. For over 30 years, fans of the Sheriff Dan Rhodes mystery series have grown to know and love the stoic, easygoing sheriff and the cast of quirky Texas characters created by Bill Crider. It is with a heavy heart that I write this review of the last Sheriff Dan Rhodes mystery.
Crider brings his usual subtle wit and laid-back, small-town charm to this final installment, and it doesn’t fail to please. When a stranger turns up murdered in an old schoolhouse, Rhodes has his work cut out for him. Making things more complicated is the fact that the community is battling over whether to raze the schoolhouse or preserve it for historical purposes. There are a host of suspects for the sheriff to whittle down, including meth-heads, local outlaws, as well as a rancher, wealthy community members, and an esteemed military family, all of whom think they’re above the law, and Crider keeps you guessing as to the identity of the perp throughout the story. Crider was known to say that he didn’t know, himself, “who dunnit” until near the end of his writing process, so perhaps that explains how he keeps the reader in suspense.
Ironically, Sheriff Rhodes contemplates retirement throughout the book - Are his lawman skills slipping? Is his heart still in the job? Unfortunately for the readers, we’ll never know how serious the sheriff was about not running for reelection. The book’s title from the General Douglas MacArthur quote is apropos of some of the themes in the book, as well as eerily apt for Crider’s last book - that old scoundrel death had him on the ropes. It’s comforting to know that Crider left us with such a wonderful legacy of entertainment. This book is a delightful end to the series, and perhaps knowing it is the last one makes it all the more enjoyable.