This is the tenth book in Ramsay’s series featuring Ike Schwartz, the sheriff of fictional Picketsville, Virginia, a small town some three hours southwest of Washington, D.C. Ike is a former CIA agent, and recently married to Ruth, the wise-cracking president of the town’s university. If you add a lot of sexual innuendo into the mix, the interaction between Ike and Ruth is reminiscent of that between Robert B. Parker’s detective Spenser and his sidekick Hawk. There is a lot of laugh-out-loud repartee between the two of them.
As the story begins, someone has tried to kill Ike, and it looks like a highly professional job, even though by pure luck (for Ike, at least), someone else is killed instead.
Ike and Ruth go into hiding, and Ike’s CIA friend Charlie Garland tries to help them find out who did this and why. The path leads to a white supremacist “patriots” group in Idaho.
As Ike discovers more and more unsavory aspects to the group, he decides he wants to put the leader out of action at any cost. Ruth doesn’t want Ike to get in any more danger, but Ike argues in favor of taking action. Reminding Ruth of how the big wheels behind the financial collapse in 2008 not only got away with what they did, but received bonuses for their trouble, he points out:
“. . . there are some people in this society who are permitted to skate on moral thin ice because they are just that – too big, too important, too connected, or too rich, to bring down. They will have alibis, fall guys, high priced lawyers, and friends in high places who will grease the skids for them, or enough money to flee the country to a venue with which we have no extradition treaty and, by the way, take their money with them. This guy is one of those people. He might be impossible to bring down the right way.”
And that’s part of the appeal of this book, and I presume of other books in the series. Mixed in with all the wise-cracking is a profound and passionate dedication to social justice.
Discussion: The editor of this book notes its similarity to books by Robert B. Parker, and indeed, the dialogue is snappy, funny, and reads like stand-up comedy much of the time. To me, that’s a bit of a drawback, since I don’t think it emulates real-life dialogue, but to Jim, who read this as well and is a big Robert Parker fan, it’s a definite plus.
Evaluation: Regardless of your position on whether or not the dialogue sounds realistic, the plot is interesting and the book is fun. The author has an impressive background, having been in academia, the military, the media, and the clergy. All of these influences show in his work.
Both of us are eager to read more of his books.
Published by Poisoned Pen Press, 2015