Murder by Serpents
Five Star, Nov 2007, $25.95
Sheriff Tony Abernathy left the big city to move to the small Eastern Tennessee town of Silervsille in Park County; a place where serious crime just never takes place. That is until now. Tony is called to the parking lot of Ruby’s Café where he finds the bloated body of a man handcuffed to the steering wheel with a rattlesnake and a copperhead loose inside the vehicle. A driver’s license identifies the victim as John Mize, who is a shirttail relation to local Quentin Mize, a part-time resident of Tony’s jail.
The victim turns out not to be a choir boy having a record as long as the nearby mountains. John also preached at an abandoned motel; insisting he found Jesus in prison. He used snakes to affirm his faith in the Lord. However, Tony finds the cages contain false bottoms filled with Oxycontin and plenty of money. He also believes that the deceased is really Harold Usher Brown, John’s cellmate in prison, who had a connection with Ruby; now that he is dead she believes she will never know the location of what he took from her. This not the only homicide Tony investigates; body parts have been all over town making identification extremely difficult. Tony knows the eccentric townsfolk break the law all the time, but their crimes are so minor law enforcement doesn’t even blink, just ignores them for the most part. However, someone has turned to MURDER BY SERPENT and more but who remains a mystery.
Anyone who enjoys reading a different kind of police procedural will appreciate this fine regional murder mystery filled with quirky characters like a man in love with a vending machine and the mom and aunt of the protagonist driving him crazy with their secrets. The cast makes MURDER BY SERPENT entertaining besides those already mentioned; there is the hero’s wife ready to help him because she worries about him getting hurt; her quilters ready to stitch the clues together at her command, and the deputy who compromises crime scenes by puking. Barbara Graham provides an entertaining Tennessee tale with one question not answered – any ties to Johnny “the Big Cat” Mize?